Should New Hampshire change its gun control laws?
By: LFDA Editor
Compared to other states, New Hampshire has relatively few regulations on the sale and ownership of firearms. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence conducts an annual survey of state gun laws in which states are given points for the different types of firearms regulations they have in place. In 2010 New Hampshire scored six points out of a possible 100, indicating a low level of regulation.
However, some argue that New Hampshire has too many constraints on the Constitutional right to bear arms. Twenty-two states also scored six or fewer points on the Brady survey, indicating that many states have fewer regulations on firearms.
New Hampshire’s current regulations on firearms can be summarized as follows:
- It is illegal to carry a firearm in a New Hampshire court.
- It is illegal for public school students to carry firearms while on school grounds.
- Administrative regulations limit the possession of firearms in licensed child care facilities, foster homes, prison grounds, and the State House.
Sale and Transfer
- It is illegal to transfer ammunition or a handgun to a minor, although there are numerous exceptions. For example, parents and grandparents may legally give a handgun to a minor relative.
- An individual may be charged with “negligent storage of firearms” if a child gains access to that individual’s firearm and uses the firearm in “a reckless or threatening manner.” However, the law is very narrowly written.
New Hampshire is a “shall issue” state
. In other words, law enforcement is required to issue a license to carry a loaded, concealed handgun unless the person applying for the license is a felon or otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm. New Hampshire does not require a license to purchase a firearm, does not require firearms to be registered, and does not require a waiting period before finalizing a firearm purchase.
Additional federal regulations apply to the sale and ownership of firearms in New Hampshire. For example, federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to conduct a background check on each purchaser. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearms Sales
, the New Hampshire Department of Safety conducts all background checks for handgun sales. For long gun sales, the firearms dealer must contact the FBI for a background check. While federal law
prohibits the possession of a firearm by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution,” states are not required to report the identity of such individuals to the National database used to perform background checks. New Hampshire currently keeps mental health records confidential, and does not provide mental health records to the federal database.
Evaluating the regulation of firearms is difficult. Is the goal decreased crime, decreased deaths due to firearm-related injury, or something more abstract, like increased liberty? How can the effect of gun control on these goals be separated from other effects, such as the effect of cultural norms? In the seminal text Sense and Nonsense about Crime, Drugs, and Communities,* criminologist Samuel Walker analyzed numerous firearms regulation regimes and concluded that neither limiting ownership of firearms nor expanding gun rights effectively decreased crime. Only this much is certain: the debate on gun control is not likely to end soon.
Here are some general arguments for and against firearms regulations:
In favor of firearms regulations:
- The United States has a much higher homicide rate, and firearm homicide rate, than European countries, which generally have stricter firearms regulations
- "Although guns can and have been used successfully in self-defense in the home, a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense" (Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence)
- Other potentially dangerous items, including automobiles, are regulated heavily by the federal government
Against firearms regulations:
- In the past two decades the homicide rate in the United States has decreased, even as firearm ownership has increased (National Rifle Association)
- Criminals do not follow laws, so regulations on firearms only hurt legal gun owners
- The second amendment protects the right to own firearms, but does not protect the right to own an automobile or other potentially dangerous items. Firearms therefore should be subject to fewer regulations.
Several legislators have requested 2014 legislation related to firearms regulations. See the "Issue Status" module to the right for more information.
Should New Hampshire reform gun regulations?
* Walker, Samuel. Sense and Nonsense about Crime, Drugs, and Communities. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.