Should New Hampshire change its gun control laws?
By: LFDA Editor
In a Nutshell:
- The degree to which the right to bear arms can be regulated and restricted is hotly debated.
- Advocates of stricter gun control point to crime rates and high-profile mass shootings to support their call for greater regulation of how firearms are owned, transported, used and sold.
- Gun rights advocates are suspicious of increased regulation, which they see as a dangerous infringement of their constitutional right.
- Gun laws in NH are comparable to those in the majority of other U.S. states.
- Research regarding whether stricter gun control increases or decreases rates of homicide, suicide and other violent crime is unclear, with both sides of the debate citing studies that support their position.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is generally interpreted to give citizens the right to personally own firearms, but the degree to which that right can be regulated and restricted remains a topic of fierce debate. Horrified by incidents such as the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings, gun control advocates have pushed for laws that strictly determine who may own firearms, and how they can be used, transported, bought and sold. Meanwhile, gun rights advocates look on such restrictions as dangerous infringements on a constitutional right.
Both sides of this debate can muster statistics to support their arguments.
Those in favor of stricter gun control cite:
On the other hand, advocates of looser gun regulations point out that:
Gun Laws in NH
New Hampshire gun laws are comparable to those in most other states, with an Open Society Foundation study ranking the state 28th in a state-by-state assessment of the degree to which gun ownership is regulated.
NH Gun Rights
- An amendment to the NH State Constitution passed in 1982 specifies that "all persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state."
- Anyone who can legally possess a firearm can carry it openly, unless in a location where guns are specifically restricted.
- Law enforcement officials must issue a license to carry a concealed, loaded handgun to anyone who applies, unless that person is a felon or otherwise restricted from possessing a gun in the first place.
- You do not need a license to purchase a firearm in New Hampshire.
- Firearms do not need to be registered.
- There is no waiting period before finalizing a firearm purchase.
- There is no minimum age for possessing a firearm. However, only a parent, grandparent or legal guardian can transfer a gun to someone under 18.
NH Gun Restrictions
- In accordance with federal law, licensed firearm dealers must conduct a background check on anyone who purchases a gun. For handgun sales, these checks are conducted by the NH Department of Safety. Long gun sale background checks are conducted by the FBI. Both checks are conducted instantly without a waiting period.
- 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." However, there is no law in NH requiring the state to release the names of mental health patients to the federal database used to conduct background checks.
- However, New Hampshire keeps mental health records confidential and does not therefore provide them to the national database used to perform background checks.
- It is illegal to possess a firearm in New Hampshire if you have been convicted of a felony or are currently subject to a protection order.
- It is illegal to carry a concealed and loaded handgun in New Hampshire without a license.
- When in a vehicle, guns must be kept in a trunk or locked compartment unless you possess a concealed carry license.
- You can't bring a firearm into a NH court, and public school students can't carry firearms on school grounds. Additional regulations limit the possession of firearms in licensed child care facilities, foster homes, and prison grounds.
- Firearms dealers in New Hampshire must obtain a local license if they intend to sell handguns.
- Those purchasing firearms must show ID, and nonresidents can't buy firearms in NH unless they are eligible to purchase them in their home state.
- 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."
- It is illegal to use Teflon-coated or armor-piercing ammunition in the course of committing a crime.
- You cannot discharge a firearm within 300 feet of a permanently occupied dwelling without the landowner's permission.
Areas of Contention
Concealed Carry Licensing
Gun rights advocates are pushing to repeal the requirement for gun owners to acquire a license to carry concealed, arguing that people with the right to own a handgun should also have the right to carry it in the manner of their choosing. Those opposed to the change hold that it is important for local law enforcement to know who might be carrying a concealed weapon.
In accordance with federal law, anyone purchasing a gun in NH must pass a background check. However, this regulation does not apply to guns purchased at gun shows from private individuals, defined as those for whom selling firearms does not constitute a primary source of income. This has raised concerns that domestic abusers, the mentally unstable, or others who would normally fail a background check could acquire firearms though such sales. Others counter that legislation aimed at closing this loophole could be over-broad, and cause innocent activities such as loaning guns or transferring them between family members to become criminal acts.
A federal ban on private ownership of semi-automatic firearms classified as "assault weapons" expired in September, 2004. The use of such weapons in high-profile shooting incidents, such as the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, has made them a particular area of concern for gun control advocates, but gun rights campaigners counter that the federal ban did not result in a reduction in crime rates. Several states have passed laws specifically banning assault weapons, and there have been efforts to renew the ban at the federal level.