N.H. House votes to pass firearms waiting period, background checks

  • N.H. House of Representatives in session on March 19, 2019. Ethan DeWitt—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/19/2019 5:33:13 PM

The New Hampshire House passed a pair of bills to impose waiting periods and background checks on firearms purchases Tuesday, furthering a series of attempts by the Democratic majority this term to increase restrictions on guns.

The first, House Bill 514, would create a mandatory seven-day waiting period for all purchases of firearms or ammunition. Under the bill, any licensed dealer, manufacturer, collector or importer could not complete a sale until all seven days passed – not including weekends and holidays.

Advocates said the buffer period would act as a significant deterrent to suicide. Forcing people to wait before buying weapons and ammo could prevent spontaneous purchases by people seeking to take their own life, they argued.

“Because of the impulsive nature of suicide, immediate access to firearms is a major mortality risk factor and one that waiting periods can help address,” said Rep. Ray Newman, a Nashua Democrat.

But gun-rights supporters said that mandatory waiting periods would hurt another population that might want firearms: domestic violence victims. Those afraid of vengeful spouses or partners often desire firearms to protect themselves quickly.

Republican Rep. Tony Lekas, a firearms instructor from Hudson, said he had worked with a woman in that situation, someone who wanted a gun to protect herself in case her abuser violated his restraining order.

The bill, Lekas said, is “very unlikely to prevent someone from causing harm, but it would very well result in the death of innocents, particularly women.”

The bill passed 199-147 on nearly party lines. No Republicans voted in favor; 12 Democrats voted against.

HB 109 proved a similar point of contention. The bill, which passed 203-148, would subject all commercial sales or transfers of firearms to background checks, including all sales at gun shows. Excluded from that requirement would be all private transfers or private sales between people, as long as neither person had a condition that barred them from buying or selling.

Democrats argued that the bill as written would subject all sellers to existing laws requiring background checks, and added that it provided sufficient exemptions for personal situations.

But Republicans said that the exceptions for private transfer were too limited to be effective, with the exceptions not applying if the person’s eligibility “cannot be ascertained.”

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

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