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January 04. 2012 7:34PM

House gives approval to guns on public property

CONCORD – The House Wednesday approved a bill that would prohibit public colleges and universities, as well as any group, organization or business that uses public lands or publicly owned or financed buildings from banning firearms.

Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto House Bill 334, which passed on a 180-144 vote, not nearly enough for an override.

The bill was of particular concern to public college officials who said it would prohibit them from banning firearms on campuses.

The bill would also prohibit banning firearms facilities such as the Verizon Wireless Arena, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, the state hospital and at state-owned buildings at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, said the bill would allow guns at day-care centers on state property, including community colleges, and at the Merrimack County Nursing Home.

The bill “is like yelling fire in a crowded theater,” he said. “There are some places in New Hampshire where we just don't want guns. This bill will put guns in places they just don't belong.”

Rep. Mark Warden, R-Goffstown, said HB 334 is a common sense bill with two main components: it includes knives with the restrictions on firearms, and it codifies that the general court has exclusive authority over firearms and knives.

Giving the Legislature the exclusive authority to set firearms policy avoids the patchwork of regulations “we have around the state,” Warden said.

On Tuesday, Lynch stood with law enforcement and public college officials to oppose the bill, asking “the House to listen to our higher education administrators and to law enforcement and reject this reckless legislation. It is uncalled for and unnecessary.”

HB 334 is one of three bills Lynch said he would veto that would loosen restrictions on what he called New Hampshire's already gun-friendly laws.

The others include House Bill 536, which would do away with the permit requirement to carry a concealed weapon, and HB 194, which would allow a rifle or shotgun to be considered loaded only if a bullet is in a gun's chamber, not if bullets are in the gun's magazine.

Current law states a rifle is loaded when there are bullets in it – whether there is a round in the chamber or not.

The House is likely to vote on the two bills today.

HB 334 will now go to the Senate where its fate is uncertain.


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