House committee rejects last-minute push for bill banning bump stocks in N.H.

  • In this Oct. 4, 2017, photo, a device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. The National Rifle Association announced its support Ton Oct. 5 for regulating the devices that can effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automated weapons and that were apparently used in the Las Vegas massacre to lethal effect. It was a surprising shift for the leading gun industry group, which in recent years has resolutely opposed any gun regulations. Immediately afterward the White House, too, said it was open to such a change. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Rick Bowmer

Monitor staff
Thursday, October 19, 2017

A last-minute effort to file legislation to ban “bump stock” gun accessories was struck down by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, pushing the Democrat-led effort into the state Senate

The legislative service request, submitted to the committee by House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, would have made the sale and possession of the devices a Class B felony under New Hampshire law.

Because the House filing deadline for 2018 was Sept. 22, Shurtleff required approval from the committee in order for the legislative service request to move forward as a bill.

But legislators on the committee defeated Shurtleff’s motion, 6-3, in a party-line vote, meaning the bill must now be filed in the Senate, which has a later filing deadline.

Shurtleff’s request came after a gunman opened fire at a concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. Law enforcement officials said shooting suspect Stephen Paddock used a bump stock modification, which allows a semi-automatic firearm to fire at a speed comparable to an automatic weapon. In the weeks since the shooting, Democrats across the country have pressed for a ban to the bump stocks, also known as multiburst trigger activators.

Rule 35(c) of the New Hampshire House Rules allows bills to be approved by the Rules Committee after the filing deadline providing they are based on “urgent or compelling need or events unforeseen prior to the filing deadline.” In comments after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, said the request did not meet those requirements.

“You take them case by case, and you have to look at the merits of every one of them,” he said of the Rules Committee process.

And he said that because the Senate filing deadline is Nov. 2, the bill still has a chance to make it through the Legislature.

Shurtleff, who as a member of the House Rules Committee was not permitted to vote on his motion, denounced the group’s decision.

“This was not the House’s finest hour,” he said. “We’ve always taken up late bills when new information comes forward, such as in this case.”

In a later statement, he called the vote of “cowardly display of the Republican Party choosing to put politics ahead of the people of New Hampshire.”

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn said he would bring forward a similar bill in the Senate, following an announcement last week.

Woodburn said he would send a draft of his legislation to Gov. Chris Sununu to review. In earlier comments to the Union Leader, the governor said he would “definitely take a look” at a bill; Woodburn said he was ready to work with the governor on drafting.

“If he says change this or that, we’ll change it,” Woodburn said. “We want something that’ll pass. ... We want to give him a victory on this.”

But Hinch expressed doubts that the measure would pass the House – even if it made it through the Senate. Hinch said that he, personally, opposed a State House-led ban on bump stocks.

“I’m huge when it comes to local control, as you know,” he said. “But I think with something like this, it’s really better served to have the federal government go through the vetting process on it and go from there.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at