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Gun permit rules up for House vote

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 25. 2015 9:17PM

CONCORD - New Hampshire House members begin their session Wednesday with guns on their minds.

The first bill representatives will take up would eliminate the permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon.

Senate Bill 116 is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, and it passed the Senate on a 14-9 vote.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-6 to recommend the bill be approved.

Lawmakers have attempted to pass what are called "constitutional carry" bills for several years without success.

This year, with the change in the House to Republican control, there is a view that repealing the permit requirement will make it through the Legislature.

People prohibited under federal law from having a firearm such as felons and those with serious mental illness would continue to be banned if the bill is approved.

The proposal also sets in law the criteria for granting a permit if someone wants one. Some gun owners like to have a permit to qualify for reciprocity agreements with other states.

Supporters say the bill will especially help women who might need quick access to a firearm, but under current law would have to wait up to several weeks for a permit.

Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, said the changes are in line with the Second Amendment to the Constitution protecting a person's right keep and bear arms.

"The majority of the committee felt that the language changes in the amendment balanced the need for public safety while protecting the rights of citizens," Burt writes.

But opponents say there is nothing wrong with the state's current gun laws and doing away with the permit requirement will prevent local police from blocking unstable or volatile individuals who may not have committed a crime but should not have easy access to guns.

Rep. Len DiSesa, D-Dover, a former Portsmouth deputy police chief, said that when people join society, they surrender some of their rights for the greater good, and constitutional gun rights are one of those instances.

"Once a round is fired, it cannot be taken back," DiSesa writes to his fellow House members. "This is not a Second Amendment issue. It is a safety issue, and repealing this law flies in the face of common sense."

The House, which has usually been the originator of repealing concealed carry permits, had House Bill 582, which would have accomplished the same goals as the Senate bill, but the criminal justice committee decided to retain the bill until next year.

While the House has yet to vote on a repeal, most observers believe SB 116 will pass the Lower Chamber.

However, the 14-9 Senate vote is not enough to override a gubernatorial veto, and the House vote is not expected to be a two-thirds majority either.

Gov. Maggie Hassan would not say what she would do if the bill makes it to her desk, but she did say the state's gun laws have been in place for 100 years and have worked well.

"I support the Second Amendment," she told reporters last week, "but (this bill) raises some serious issues."

Hassan said she shares law enforcement's concerns about SB 116 and public safety.

Democratic-leaning polling firm Public Policy Polling found 71 percent of those surveyed oppose repealing the concealed weapon permit requirement, while 23 favor repeal.

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