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NH House passes gun rights bill, defeats voluntary ‘do not sell’ list

Representatives Hall before the New Hampshire House of Representatives convenes. Dan Tuohy photo 2022 / NHPR
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
Representatives Hall before the New Hampshire House of Representatives convenes. Dan Tuohy photo 2022 / NHPR

This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.

The New Hampshire House took up the first of several gun rights bills Thursday, rejecting a voluntary “do not sell” list and approving a new process for returning firearms after the expiration of a restraining order or bail conditions.

Meanwhile, one of the year’s most closely watched bills is set to get its first vote by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Friday. House Bill 1711 would add certain mental health records to gun background checks to prevent people who are federally prohibited from buying guns from doing so.

And Senate Democrats were unable last week to pass a three-day waiting period for gun purchase or a bill that would have allowed the courts to take the guns of someone presenting a safety risk.

The House took up three gun bills Thursday.

‘Do not sell’ list

House Bill 1050 would have created a second list of people prohibited from buying guns: Individuals who put themselves there for fear they will hurt themselves or others if they have access to a gun. Currently, the list includes only people prohibited by federal law from possessing a gun.

The “do not sell” list legislation, which won support from Republicans on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, failed largely along party lines, 179 to 200. One Republican voted with Democrats in supporting it, while seven Democrats crossed party lines to vote with the Republicans.

Rep. Terry Roy, a Deerfield Republican, said he was open to supporting the bill until he became concerned physicians treating people with mental illness would encourage someone to put their name on the list.

“What if, for example, you are involved with a psychiatrist and the guy you’ve seen for years and you depend on for your mental health says to you, ‘If you want to continue seeing me you have to put your name on this registry,” Roy said Thursday. “You now have a choice: Keep your Second Amendment rights or lose your doctor.”

Rep. David Meuse, a Portsmouth Democrat and the bill's sponsor, noted the legislation includes a criminal penalty for coercing someone to join the list.

“The bottom line is it’s not a decision about whether or not to own a firearm,” he said. “It’s a personal health care decision … in empowering the freedom of choice in a state where many of us like to loudly proclaim how much we treasure personal liberty.”

Related story: After the death of her son, this NH mom wants to restrict her right to buy a gun

Returning firearms

On a voice vote and without discussion, the House passed an amended version of House Bill 1339 that would create a process for returning firearms that have been taken as part of a restraining order or bail condition.

The bill would require guns to be returned to the owner “promptly” after the expiration of the order. If the court opts to do a safety background check before permitting the guns to be returned, the Department of Safety has two business days to initiate a check and 10 business days to return a finding.

The bill also lays out a timeline for challenging a finding that prohibits the return of firearms. It will be taken up by the House Finance Committee next.

The bill initially sought to require the Department of Safety to handle all gun purchase background checks rather than only those for handguns, as it now does. Background checks on long guns are done by the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The Department of Safety told lawmakers that as introduced, the bill would have required four additional staff members to handle the approximately 27,000 background checks done by the FBI between January 2023 and October. In that time, the state’s eight “gun line” staff processed 55,000 background checks, according to the department.

Tracking guns

In 2022, the International Organization for Standardization, which sets standards for business transactions, voted to create a special code, 5723, to track firearms purchases via credit and debit card purchases.

Underpolitical pressurefrom attorneys general in 24 states and firearm rights groups, the major credit card companies, including Visa, American Express, and Mastercard, halted implementing the code. House Bill 1186 would prohibit firearms retailers in New Hampshire from entering that code during a gun or ammunition purchase. The bill would also allow the Attorney General’s Office to pursue legal action unless the retailer agreed to cease coding purchases.

It passed, 203-174, largely along party lines. It heads next to the House Finance Committee.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Janvrin, a Seabrook Republican, seven states pursued similar legislation last year.

In speaking for it Thursday, Roy said passing the bill would send a message to credit card companies: “Stay out of our business status (and) my credit card bills. Stay out of my life,” he said. “This is the Second Amendment. It’s none of the government’s business.”

Senate votesSenators acted on three other firearm bills last week, all along party lines.

Senate Bill 360 would have allowed a family or household member to ask a court to restrict access to firearms by someone it believes poses an immediate or significant risk to themselves or others.

It failed, as did Senate Bill 577, which would have imposed a three-day waiting period to buy a firearm. Some individuals would be exempted, including people who hold a hunting license or work in law enforcement.

Senate Bill 322, which passed the Senate, seeks to address a concern raised by individuals who want a license to carry a loaded pistol or revolver, which they do not need in New Hampshire but must have to carry in other states.

Some police chiefs have refused to sign licenses if their concerns about the individual’s suitability and safety do not make them ineligible to carry a concealed gun under state or federal law, the only grounds for denying a permit.

The bill would require law enforcement officers authorizing a pistol permit to include their name, title, and signature, but it would also provide them immunity to law enforcement should the individual commit a crime involving their firearm.

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