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Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, says "constitutional carry" is now a done deal. (DAN TUOHY/UNION LEADER)

House passes repeal of 'concealed carry' gun license law


CONCORD — New Hampshire is on the verge of repealing a state law that requires Granite Staters to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

The House of Representatives voted 200 to 97 Thursday to pass Senate Bill 12, which previously passed the state Senate.

Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, has endorsed such a repeal. The legislation now makes its way to his desk.

"Constitutional carry is now a done deal," Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, said after the House vote.

Rep. Robert Elliott, R-Salem, was among the opposition speakers who said the current law works well. He said it protects citizens from criminals and from "a society that has gone crazy."

State lawmakers largely ignored calls from the New Hampshire chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, which is part of Everytown for Gun Safety. The group said the bill would "allow dangerous people to carry hidden, loaded firearms in public without a permit." 

Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, who spoke on the bill’s behalf, thanked grassroots activists and gun owners in New Hampshire for supporting the repeal.

"This was not done by out-of-state lobbyists," said Hoell, citing Everytown for Gun Safety’s efforts to sway legislators.

Hoell, who is a secretary for the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, referred to the legislation as a common-sense Second Amendment issue.

Supporters take issue with the language in the statute, including authority for a town or city’s police chief to issue the permit if they find "the applicant is a suitable person to be licensed." They claim that allows too much subjectivity, and potential for bias. 

Current resident licenses to carry a concealed, loaded pistol or revolver — unless they are otherwise prohibited under the law — cost $10 for a four-year license. The State Police Permits and Licensing Unit issued 8,923 non-resident licenses in fiscal year 2016 at a cost of $100, which generated about $1 million in revenue for the state budget in each of the last three years, according to the bill. 

Manchester and Nashua each issue about 1,500 resident licenses a year.

The Senate passed the bill on a party-line 13-10 vote last month. Its sponsors include Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, House Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, and Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua.

Avard was the target of about $130,000 in attack ads last year by the New Hampshire chapter of Everytown for Gun Safety, based in part on his support for "constitutional carry," what the group calls "permit-less carry." Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-founded and helped fund Everytown for Gun Safety.

Former governors Maggie Hassan and John Lynch, both Democrats, opposed a proposed repeal of the permitting requirement. Republicans have majority control of the Legislature and, for the first time in a dozen years, occupy the corner office.

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, argued to keep the law as is. 

"I think we’re just going to cause more problems for ourselves, more problems for law enforcement," he said.

Recognizing the new GOP majority in Concord, D’Allesandro noted that the late Gov. Meldrim Thomson, a proud conservative, even supported the law that has been on the books for about a century.

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