The passage of a new state law removing the requirement that you need a permit to carry a concealed handgun has raised questions about the effect of the change.
The Constitutional carry bill was one of the first major pieces of legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature and when Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed it earlier this week, the change took effect immediately.
With some guidance from the State Police and Sgt. Art Merrigan of the Bow Police Department, here are the answers to questions about gun ownership in New Hampshire:
I want a handgun. What do I have to do?
Go to a federally licensed arms dealer and buy one.
Unlike operating a car or using a gun to hunt, there’s no requirement for any training before you can own a handgun in New Hampshire or in most states.
Age is a consideration. Under federal law you have to be at least 21 years old to buy a handgun or to buy ammunition for a handgun, although you can carry a handgun in New Hampshire at age 18. You can buy a rifle or shotgun at age 18.
You’ll have to fill out a Firearm Transactions Record form from the federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that will be used to check the records at the state Department of Safety. You can buy a gun as long as you’re not a convicted felon, haven’t been convicted of certain drug crimes, and are not the subject of a domestic violence protective order.
Is any license required?
New Hampshire hasn’t ever required a license to openly carry handguns or other firearms. Until Wednesday, you had to get a permit issued by your local police department to carry a concealed handgun – but now it is optional.
The permits cost $10 and last five years, and are necessary if you plan on traveling with your firearm out of state. Every state has different requirements for licenses and getting caught carrying a handgun without a required license can result in fines or even criminal prosecution.
The New Hampshire concealed-carry permit is recognized in 28 other states, but State Police suggest you contact the state you’re visiting “to confirm their recognition status before carrying concealed weapons there. For example, some states only recognize a license if the person is 21 years of age or older.”
Neither Vermont nor Maine require licenses to carry firearms, either openly or concealed. Massachusetts and New York have very strict gun laws; don’t take your firearm there without checking carefully first.
Incidentally, if you have an urge to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun, don’t think about cutting down the barrel: Federal law regulates the minimum length of their barrels.
Where can I carry my firearm?
Firearms cannot be taken, openly or concealed, into most federal buildings – including post offices – or into any courthouse, whether federal, state or county.
Airports, of course, have strict guidelines about weapons and most hospitals forbid carrying firearms and other weapons.
Schools are trickier. There is no state law that mandates gun-free school zones, so it’s up to each community to decide whether firearms can be brought onto school property or possessed by students.
Many school systems have banned guns in schools, at least when children are in the building – an issue that came up at the recent election because many polling places are in schools and voters could bring their firearms.
What about private businesses?
Businesses have the to right to ban firearms from their property, Merrigan said, and can ask customers who are carrying firearms, openly or concealed, to leave.
Customers who don’t leave a business when requested can be charged with criminal trespassing.
What if I’m still confused?
Call your local police department and pick their brains.
As of Friday, Merrigan said, the new law hadn’t generated many queries in Bow.
“I think that most gun owners are aware of the law. All of the people who are legally carrying them knew they needed the license; when that one expires, it will be their choice as to whether they want to renew it,” he said.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)