The New Hampshire House of Representatives is now a gun-free zone.
The new Democratic majority led an effort Wednesday to ban deadly weapons from the House chamber - the largest public space at the State House - and in surrounding rooms. The vote was 220 to 163, marking one of the first pieces of official business this session.
The rules on carrying guns in the House chamber have flip-flopped over the past few years, depending on which party is in charge. Up until 2011, guns were banned for decades from the House chamber.
Most of the opposition to the rule change came from Republican members. About 50 2nd Amendment advocates showed up for a rally outside the State House Wednesday morning. Attendees shivered through brief speeches and shouted out the words of the 2nd Amendment.
Inside the chambers, many Republican reps testified about death threats they’ve received and said that if they can’t carry on the House floor, they won’t be able to protect themselves or visitors to the statehouse.
Some, like freshman Rep. David Love of Derry, said they were concerned for the safety of the thousands of fourth graders who come through the State House.
“If you take a look around you, and please take a look up in the gallery, and just imagine some madman or mad woman got up in there,” Love said, referring to the seating area that looks down on the 400 plus seat House floor.
“The children that were mentioned, they’d be gone, most of us - there’d be a bloodbath. The blood would be knee-deep here.”
Democrats said they shared that same fear, but advocated for the opposite action.
Majority leader Rep. Douglas Ley of Jaffrey said there have been too many incidents of mishandled or dropped firearms in the State House.
“This is an issue of gun safety and public safety. We don’t want to wait until there is a problem because if we do that, then we’re waiting until there is a tragedy,” Ley said.
After a brief grace period, lawmakers will be able to stash their guns in lock boxes outside of House chambers. Republicans tried pushing amendments that would get the lock boxes closer to chambers - Rep. Al Baldasaro of Londonderry had also tried to table the rule change altogether - but the Democratic majority held strong.
Many Republicans lined up after the vote to submit letters of protest for the record.