House votes again to make NH gun licenses optional
CONCORD, N.H.—The House has voted to make New Hampshire the fourth state to eliminate the need for a permit to carry concealed, loaded guns anyplace where gun possession is legal.
The House voted 193-122 Thursday to make the permits optional. Gun owners could still get them so they could travel to states with reciprocal permit agreements. It also would increase from four to five years the length of time a permit is valid. The bill also would make it legal to transport unlicensed guns.
The House passed a similar bill last session, but the Senate postponed action on it until this year.
Exemptions in the law, such as for felons carrying weapons, would not change.
Vermont, Arizona and Alaska don't require a permit.
Gov. John Lynch promises to veto the bill and two other bills that ease regulations on guns. The House ignored his veto threat on the licensing bill and on another bill Wednesday that gives the Legislature authority to regulate guns on any public land or in publicly owned or financed buildings, except the courts. That bill would end colleges' ability to prohibit guns on campuses.
The Senate next considers the two bills.
The House voted 204-110 later Thursday to pass the third bill that would loosen a 74-year-old ban on loaded rifles and shotguns in vehicles. Weapons inside vehicles would be allowed to contain clips of ammunition as along as no bullets were loaded into the firing chamber.
State Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, opposed the change, arguing the law is intended to protect people from the guns accidentally discharging. Shurtleff said it would take a "nano second" to prepare the gun for firing if the bill passes.
But state Rep. Michael McCarthy, R-Nashua, said the original law was intended to prevent poaching. He said he was particularly concerned that the current law could be enforced against someone living in a recreational vehicle who has a loaded gun for self-defense.
"We're trying to avoid a situation where people are not hunting or poaching and run afoul of the law," he said.
Supporters of making licenses optional argued law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to guns and should not be required to get a license.
"An armed society is a polite society," said state Rep. Mark Warden, R-Goffstown.
Opponents argued the bill would weaken public safety and put people at greater risk of gun violence.
Shurtleff said local police chiefs rarely deny requests for concealed weapons permits. He said local authorities know if someone has a mental health issue that would make granting the permit dangerous.
"This is something that belongs in the local communities for the local communities to regulate," he said.