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Gun bill muzzled in Senate

State House Bureau

May 03. 2012 12:29AM

CONCORD - Citing recent gun violence in the state, the Senate killed a bill that would have made permits optional to carry a loaded, concealed firearm.

House Bill 536 was the last of three bills that would have expanded gun rights that Gov. John Lynch said he would veto. All three were either killed or sent to interim study by the Senate this session.

The bill would have allowed 'constitutional carry' or would not have required a license or permit to carry a firearm and would have allowed anyone to have a gun in their home, dwelling or place of business. That included those prohibited from having a weapon for other reasons, such as being a convicted felon, convicted of domestic abuse, or mentally unstable.

The Senate first voted down party lines 19-5 to approve changes to the House-passed bill, but then voted 17-7 to table the bill, effectively killing it for this session.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said he does not expect the Senate to take any further action on the bill this session.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, urged the groups and organizations on all sides of the issue to work together over the summer to come up with a compromise that will work.

Supporters said the changes the Senate made in the House-passed bill would provide the necessary reasonable restrictions without inhibiting anyone from legally carrying a weapon in the 'Live Free or Die state.'

Opponents argued the recent spate of gun violence in the state should cause lawmakers to slow down in expanding gun rights.

Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond, who said he has voted for every 'gun bill in the last 20 years,' said: 'I just can't bring myself to vote this legislation.'

After the vote to table the bill, Barnes told his fellow senators, 'I did what I thought was right. I make no apology for my vote.'

Barnes spoke of the April 12 wounding of four police officers in Greenland and the killing of the town's police chief.

'This bill is a slap in the face of law enforcement,' he said. 'I want to look my chief in the eye.'

Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Meriden, noted that in the last 10 days in his district, two men were found shot in Springfield, a gun was discharged in an armed robbery in Cornish and a mother of four children was shot and killed by her husband in Grantham.

'So much for New Hampshire being the safest state,' Houde said. 'Please slow down.'

He noted under the proposed bill there are no restrictions 'on a 16-year-old carrying a gun into McDonald's if it's his place of business.'

Others noted lawmakers last session passed the 'stand-your-ground law,' which Florida is now reexamining in light of the shooting of an unarmed teenager.

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, noted that a police officer was shot in Manchester in March, a police officer was murdered in the city several years ago, and a 9-year-old boy shot himself in the head in Hollis recently.

'Gun violence is dramatically increasing; in Manchester, gun violence is out of sight,' D'Allesandro said. 'Why are we talking about making more weapons available?'

He said what is needed is a civil, caring society that obeys the law.

The bill would have extended the license period from four to five years and made a license optional to allow for reciprocal agreements with other states.

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