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Proposed ban on bump stocks comes under fire at State House

State House Bureau

January 25. 2018 8:27PM
A bump-fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate is seen at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah. (REUTERS/George Frey/File)

CONCORD — A firearms accessory that many people had not even heard of until the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year was the focus of a heated debate in Concord on Thursday, as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to ban bump stocks in New Hampshire.

Senate Bill 492 establishes a misdemeanor offense for the manufacture, sale, possession or use of the device, technically known as a “multi-burst trigger activator.”

“This legislation would ban the use and distribution of bump stocks in the Granite State while preserving the rights of our state’s law-abiding gun owners,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield.

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.

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.

Most of the speakers at the Thursday hearing were in opposition, including Mitch Kopacz, president of Gun Owners of New Hampshire.

“It’s an unfortunate part of society that there are bad people who do bad things, but you are going to take away the tools we use to protect ourselves from those people,” he said. “This is a knee-jerk reaction to an event. It may be well-intentioned, but it will actually ban all semi-automatics in the state.”

Firearms experts testified that the definition of bump stock in the bill — “a device designed or redesigned to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm, which allows the firearm to discharge two or more shots in a single burst” — is imprecise and subject to multiple interpretations.

They also argued that the bill will not achieve the desired result, since many shooters can achieve the same frequency of discharge without a bump stock. They emphasized that, contrary to popular misconception, a bump stock does not turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun or fully automatic weapon.

Zandra Rice-Hawkins, with Granite State Progress, testified in support of the bill.

“These devices harness the recoil power of the gun to simulate the speed of a machine gun, without being subject to the same laws and regulations,” she said.

After the hearing, Woodburn delivered the bill and a red pen to Gov. Sununu’s office for his review. “I have offered this legislation to Gov. Sununu and asked him to make any relevant and reasonable changes to it that he would like. This is not a partisan issue; this is a common sense solution,” he said.

Sununu recently said he thinks the catalog of state gun laws is adequate as is, with no changes needed at this time. The bill is cosponsored by nine Senate Democrats, with no Republicans.

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Thank you, Sununu