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NH News

Court Sides with Gun-Rights Supporter Over Ban on Weapons Inside State House

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Republican state lawmaker who challenged a ban on carrying weapons inside of Representatives Hall and adjacent rooms at the State House in Concord. The justices did not, however, overturn the ban, instead sending the case back to a lower court.

Rep. John Burt of Goffstown filed a lawsuit after the Democratically-controlled House passed a rule prohibiting guns inside Representatives Hall in 2018. Burt argued that it was a violation of lawmakers’ 2nd Amendment rights.

A lower court dismissed Burt’s suit on procedural grounds, citing the separation of powers clause that limits judicial oversight of rulemaking by other branches of government.

But in a unanimous opinion released Friday, the four-member Supreme Court found that the judicial branch does have a role to play when internal rules pose constitutional or other fundamental rights questions.

Citing a 2005 case, the justices write that “while it is appropriate to give due deference to a co-equal branch of government as long as it is functioning within constitutional constraints, it would be a serious dereliction on our part to deliberately ignore a clear constitutional violation.”

The case now heads back to the lower court for further review. 

The ability to carry weapons inside of Representatives Hall, as well as other areas of the State House, has evolved into a partisan issue in recent years. When the GOP has held the majority, it’s leadership has permitted lawmakers to carry guns.

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