A state Senate committee on Tuesday recommended a bill pass that would allow people who can legally own a gun in New Hampshire to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
A similar bill died last year when the Senate failed to override the Democratic governor’s veto. But the new Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has said he supports the so-called constitutional carry legislation.
Republicans, who control the House and Senate, will have an unobstructed path to pass Senate Bill 12.
“We know that our neighboring states including Vermont and now Maine allow residents to carry a firearm without a license and they have some of the lowest gun violence rates in the nation,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said in a statement. “It is time for New Hampshire to join the ranks and I look forward to the support of the House and Governor Sununu on this legislation.”
Federal law prohibits felons, fugitives, the mentally ill and those who have been convicted of domestic violence or drug-related crimes from owning guns. The current permitting process gives police an added layer of discretion over who should be able to carry handguns out of sight. People who legally possess guns aren’t prohibited from carrying them openly in the state.
A progressive group, Granite State Progress, responded to the vote by calling the bill “a radical piece of legislation that will jeopardize public safety.” The group’s executive director, Zandra Rice-Hawkins, said in a statement that police would lose their ability to deny permits to people in their communities who are known to be dangerous but haven’t been arrested.
“The common-sense law we have in place now allows local police departments to deny a license when there is reason to believe a person is a danger to themselves or others,” she said. “With this vote, New Hampshire is opening the door to allow dangerous individuals with a track record of violence to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons.”
Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, was the prime sponsor of the bill, which has 18 Republicans and no Democrats as co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
“This legislation simply serves to restore the intent of the U.S. Constitution by eliminating the licensing requirement to carry a concealed firearm by individuals legally able to do so,” he said.
(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, email@example.com or on Twitter at