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Bill easing restrictions on guns in vehicles clears House

State House Bureau

April 12. 2018 7:59PM

CONCORD — A Senate bill to ease restrictions on loaded long guns in moving vehicles was approved by the House on Tuesday, despite opposition from law enforcement.

Current law prohibits carrying loaded rifles, shotguns and other long guns in a vehicle. SB 500 removes the prohibition on possession in a stationary vehicle, and gives farmers an exemption to allow loaded long guns in their vehicles when on private land.

The New Hampshire Police Association and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department opposed SB 500, which cleared the Senate in a voice vote March 8 and the House on a 184-146 roll call Tuesday that broke mostly along party lines.

Opponents of the bill argued the language regarding rights of farmers is unclear and could lead to more citizens carrying loaded long guns in moving vehicles than intended.

The bill does not use the word “farmer,” but grants the right to carry a loaded firearm on a moving vehicle to “a person or a person’s agent while in the act of protecting his or her interest in their livestock or crop” except on any public way.

“This is not only for farmers. It would allow you to have a loaded gun on many kinds of vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, OHRVs, tractors, even aircraft,” said Rep. Jonathan Manley, D-Bennington, who serves on the Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee that heard the bill.

“This is something for many years we have said is an unsafe thing to do and we have defeated many bills that tried to do the same things.”

Rep. James Spillane, R-Deerfield, also on the Fish and Game Committee, took issue with that description.

“Agents does not mean everyone in the street,” he said. “The bill is strictly tied to agriculture. What it’s meant to do is allow (farmers) to defend their livestock on their own private roads.”

Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, said another important feature of the bill is that it grants the right to people who travel in recreational vehicles to keep a loaded long gun in the vehicle when it is stationary so that they might protect themselves.

“This would allow for a person to have a loaded firearm in their parked RV,” he said. “You can park your camper in the woods, your motor home, and defend it.”

The House-passed version of the bill will have to be reconciled with the Senate version before it goes to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu, who said earlier in the session that he does not see the need for any new gun legislation in 2018.

Sununu was a big supporter of a bill he signed into law last year allowing concealed carry of loaded handguns without a license from local police.

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