NH Legislature convenes; GOP in charge

By Norma Love
Associated Press / January 5, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—Carrying a gun on New Hampshire's House floor is OK for the first time in 40 years under new rules the Republican-dominated chamber adopted Wednesday.

The rules lifted a ban on carrying a weapon into the House floor and nearby rooms. The new rule allows people to carry the weapons but prohibits their display. The rule also allows armed individuals to use weapons in self-defense and in the defense of others.

The ban had been in effect since 1971, according to Democrats.

The House adopted the rules over Democrats' objections. Democrats attempted to bar guns by visitors in the gallery, but lost 274-96.

Concord Democrat Stephen Shurtleff argued in vain that schoolchildren shouldn't even inadvertently see a concealed weapon.

"We do have a right to bear arms but we also have a right for those young people to see us at work and not feel fear or intimidation," he said.

Hudson Republican Shawn Jasper said the children should learn the traditions and history of the state.

"This is an open carry state and while, for matters of decorum, I do support only concealed weapons in the chamber, anteroom and gallery, it is important that students understand this is part of our proud tradition," he said.

Under the old rule, only law enforcement officers could carry deadly weapons in the House chamber, anterooms, cloakrooms or any area of the Statehouse adjacent to those rooms.

On Tuesday, a Republican-dominated legislative committee voted to repeal a year-old ban on guns and dangerous weapons in the Statehouse complex that covers areas beyond the House floor and nearby rooms.

They left intact a rule giving security guards the right to search people for weapons. Anyone who does not want to be searched has the right to leave the building. Nothing in the rules allows security to confiscate weapons.

Weapons at the Statehouse became a concern when people with guns stood and shouted at lawmakers from the House gallery in March 2009. The disturbance was during debate and votes on a resolution to reaffirm the state's freedom from interference by the federal government. The resolution failed.

Democrats controlled the Legislature then and reinstated a Statehouse complex weapons ban that had been in place from 1996 to 2006.