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Senate OKs 'concealed carry' without a permit for firearms

State House Bureau

January 19. 2017 2:26PM

CONCORD — The state Senate, as expected, voted along party lines, 13-10, on Thursday to approve a bill that would make it easier to legally carry a concealed weapon in New Hampshire.

Senate Bill 12 to eliminate the state's permit requirement for concealed carry was endorsed in a 3-2 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 10.

State Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, said the change will make New Hampshire residents less safe by removing the authority of police chiefs to pick and choose which residents will be allowed to carry a concealed handgun. Current law allows police chiefs to determine if someone is "suitable" for a concealed carry permit.

"SB 12 will revoke a process that has worked well in our state for more than a century," said Lasky. "It's a process that balances the Second Amendment rights of our citizens with local control of law enforcement to ensure that potentially dangerous people are not allowed to carry concealed weapons."

New Hampshire is one of 31 states that give law enforcement the power to deny a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, said the change is unnecessary.

"The old saying in most shops is, if it isn't broke, don't fix it," he said.

D'Allesandro said 2,477 people applied for a concealed permit in Manchester in the past year, and only 41 were refused.

"Does everyone who wants a concealed weapon get it?" he said, "Yes, and the 41 who were denied were probably bad guys ... Why do we change laws that are working perfectly well."

D’Allesandro said the state's police chiefs oppose the change, and that the Senate should stand behind law enforcement in the state.

"We depend on them to risk their lives to protect us. They don't get it wrong, and they are doing it in our best interests," he asserted.

Sen. Kevin Avard said police chiefs are not unanimous on the issue.

"I know some who support Constitutional carry in my district," he said. "I have a constitutional right to carry a firearm and the government has no right to infringe on that. I do not need to ask for permission."

Law-abiding citizens who are legally allowed to carry a handgun, particularly women, would prefer concealed carry, said Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. "Even though we are the fourth safest state in the nation, people don't always feel safe," he said.

The emotional gun control issue is before the Legislature for the third time in three sessions. Supporters of the change are confident that this year the measure will be signed into law. The past two attempts passed with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, but were vetoed by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan.

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