CONCORD — The New Hampshire House on Tuesday passed two gun control bills, one requiring background checks for all firearms sales or transfers, and another imposing a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a gun.
The Democratic majority in the House also defeated a Republican sponsored bill that would have expanded the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law to allow the use of deadly force in defending a third party or “other” against any felony offense.
HB 109, requiring universal background checks, passed 203-148, along mostly partisan lines. No Republicans voted for the bill, but seven Democrats voted against it.
Republicans argued that friends and family members transferring firearms among themselves would be swept up in the law.
“The minority believes there is no problem with illegal gun sales, use or possession in New Hampshire, yet this bill will create a ban on simple transfers of firearms between friends, family and neighbors,” said Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown. “If enacted into law, this bill will place otherwise law-abiding people at risk of arrest and prosecution.”
The bill prohibits any transaction involving a firearm unless a licensed firearms dealer is either the seller or the buyer. If neither party to the sale is a licensed firearms dealer, the parties will have to complete the transaction through a licensed firearms dealer so a background check can be conducted.
“By voting to take this action requiring all commercial firearms sales to be accompanied by a background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer, the majority feels this legislation prudently protects public safety without jeopardizing the Second Amendment rights of our citizens,” according to Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth.
HB 514, which passed 199-147, calls for a waiting period of seven days to obtain a gun, excluding weekends and legal holidays, prompting critics of the legislation to claim the waiting period could extend as long as 11 days.
Voting was largely along party lines, but 12 Democrats voted against the bill. One Republican, John Fothergill of Colebrook, voted for it.
“The sponsors have not shown any evidence of criminals obtaining firearms from licensed dealers,” said Burt. “However, this bill will burden licensed dealers with additional record keeping requirements that will force them to increase prices, making it more expensive for law abiding people to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Opponents of the bill said the waiting period would also put abused women at risk, as they wait to legally purchase a gun for self-protection.
Supporter of the bill framed it largely as a way to prevent suicide.
“Suicide rates in New Hampshire have risen at an alarming rate of 48 percent between 1999 and 2016,” said Democratic Majority Leader Doug Ley of Jaffrey.
“We know that attempting suicide with a firearm is fatal 90 percent of the time and that firearm suicides are cut in half in states that have waiting period legislation. It is imperative that New Hampshire join the ranks of states that take this important action to avoid violent tragedy.”
A bill that would extend New Hampshire’s “stand your ground” law to the defense of others if a felony crime is under way (HB 208) failed 150-200 over concerns by Democrats that authorizing use of deadly force during any felony is too broad, since many felonies are non-violent.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who has said he believes the state’s gun laws are “fine just the way they are,” could well veto the waiting period and background check bills if they also clear the state Senate.