CONCORD — The State Senate approved along strict, party-line votes three gun control measures Thursday closing a background check loophole, imposing a three-day waiting period to buy a gun and permitting local school boards to ban guns on their property.
But the identical 13-10 votes with all Democrats for and all Republican senators against send each one of them back the House of Representatives for its review because senators made substantial changes to them.
Supporters maintained all three were “common sense” reforms to make it harder for violent or mentally unstable people to buy firearms.
“This (gun background check) bill will not stop every tragedy regarding a gun but it will help stop needless suffering by our citizens,” said Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, a retired school psychologist who led the effort to pass all three.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said these changes are solutions in pursuit of no problem since New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the nation and has not had a single serious school shooting incident.
“Can anyone talk about instances that have happened with guns here in New Hampshire?” Carson asked rhetorically.
Gov. Chris Sununu has said action on gun measures should take place in Congress and not by changing state laws.
Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said that’s not the answer as the nation’s gun lobby has blocked any action in Washington for decades.
“We have seen what has happened at the federal level. Nothing. Let’s do what we usually do in New Hampshire. Let’s take this upon ourselves and deal with it here in New Hampshire and we can and this does not conflict with 2nd Amendment rights,” said Feltes, who is considering a 2020 Democratic primary bid for governor.
Regarding school background checks (HB 109), Senate Democratic leaders had rewritten the language that cleared the House, though the intent was the same to require a background check for those who buy a firearm at a gun show or engage in a private sale.
“New Hampshire is safe but we have people who are killing themselves, people who are using their guns. This is a common sense law that we are trying to put into place,” said Sen. Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline.
The House had approved a seven-day waiting period (HB 514) and it endorsed a ban on carrying guns on school property unless the person is just dropping off a student and the gun remains in a locked car (HB 564).
Sen. Robert Guida, R-Warren, said restricting guns on school property will make students less safe.
“We would be much better to put a sign on the school that says staff are trained in the use of deadly force,” Giuda said.
Sen. John Morgan, D-Brentwood, said he couldn’t support a blanket policy on guns in schools and said it should be the decision of local educators in each community.
Feltes said the local option strikes the right balance.
“I trust our school boards. I trust that Jeffersonian principle of local democracy, of local debate that folks will organize on both sides of this issue and yes debate will occur at the local level,” Feltes said.
“What’s wrong with a debate on school safety by our school boards?”