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NH House refuses to waive rules to consider late gun control measures

State House Bureau

March 07. 2018 12:03AM

CONCORD — Democrats tried unsuccessfully to introduce a late bill banning bump stocks and raising the legal age to purchase long guns from 18 to 21 as the House of Representatives convened on Tuesday.

The motion by Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff to suspend House rules and act on the bill failed in a 178-144 vote along party lines, with only four Republicans joining Democrats in support of Shurtleff’s motion. Two Democrats voted “no.”

Shurtleff attempted to introduce a bill banning bump stocks in October, just days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but the deadline for submitting House bills had passed. The Republican majority on the House Rules Committee voted against allowing the late bill.

In the wake of the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Shurtleff urged his fellow lawmakers to reconsider the idea.

“This isn’t a ‘gotcha bill’” Shurtleff said. “I’ve looked at what other Republicans and Democrats have said across the country and am trying to bring forth legislation that has the support of our President and most recently the support of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.”

Rep. Lee Oxenham, D-Plainfield, co-sponsored the effort to suspend rules, which requires a two-thirds vote.

“Our constituents and our communities are calling on us to institute simple, common-sense safety measures that in no way infringe upon any of our citizens’ rights,” she said.

Majority Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said there was plenty of time to file legislation dealing with the issue during the filing period, and that passing such a bill without a public hearing would be inappropriate.

“Now is not the time to reopen the bill filing process,” he said. “It’s time to get on with the hundreds of bills currently before this House in the next three days.”

A Senate bill to ban bump stocks recently stalled in that chamber.

In a 14-9 roll call along party lines, the Senate on Feb. 1 voted to refer a bump stock ban filed by Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, to interim study by the Judiciary Committee. That puts the bill out of consideration for this legislative session, but it could come back next year.

Bump stocks use a rifle’s recoil to bounce off the shooter’s shoulder and “bump” the trigger back into place, allowing the marksman to fire multiple rounds in rapid succession.

Shurtleff said he was hoping Republicans in New Hampshire would follow the lead of their counterparts in Florida, where the state Senate on Monday narrowly passed a bill to raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, require a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and ban the sale or possession of bump stocks.

“Their actions stand in stark contrast to what we just saw on the House floor here in New Hampshire,” he said.

A bump stock was found in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 concert-goers and wounded 489 others last October in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“It’s important to hear what the federal government proposes before moving forward on this issue,” according to Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry.

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