The New Hampshire House approved several bills Tuesday aimed at tightening the rules on gun purchases in the state, a dramatic shift in a state known to have some of the least restrictive laws in the country.
Supporters in the Democratically-controlled body voted 199-147 in favor of a bill that would mandate a seven-day waiting period on gun sales. The House also approved a bill 203-148 that requires criminal background checks on commercial sales and a seven-day waiting period for gun purchases.
The bills now go to the Democratically-controlled Senate.
Supporters of the waiting period bill argued that limiting the access to guns could dramatically cut the suicide rates in the state.
"Waiting periods can and do save lives by preventing impulsive acts of violence and suicide," House Majority Leader Doug Ley said, claiming that suicide rates have gone up nearly 50 percent between 1999 and 2016 in New Hampshire.
"Our most important job as legislators is to protect and preserve the health and safety of all New Hampshire citizens and I am pleased that the House voted today to do just that," he said. "It is imperative that New Hampshire join the ranks of states that take this important action to avoid violent tragedy."
Opponents, including the National Rifle Association, said the bill would harm the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. They also argued that the bill requiring background checks would effectively ban private transfer of weapons, contending the definition of commercial sales was too broad.
It is unclear if Republican Gov. Chris Sununu would veto the measures. But he campaigned for keeping gun laws as they are.
The proposals are among a raft of gun control bills that Democrats are pushing this legislative session.
Last month, the House voted to allow school districts to create gun-free zones. A House committee also voted last week to retain a bill to make it easier to take guns away from people in danger of harming themselves or others.
The success of gun control measures is also in stark contrast to years past. Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected a bid to create gun-free school zones. And in 2017, Sununu signed a bill that allowed residents to carry a concealed handgun in public without a permit.
The push for tougher gun control laws has led to some of the most crowded and contentious hearings so far, pitting gun owners and hunters against those concerned about gun violence including a rash of school shootings.
-- Michael Casey, Associated Press