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N.H. Senate passes bill that would make it easier to carry concealed weapon

  • Democratic Sen. David Watters speaks about the right-to-work bill during a session of the New Hampshire Senate at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Republican Sen. John Reagan (left) speaks to Democratic Sen. Lou D'Allesandro during a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The Senate voted on right-to-work and concealed carry bills throughout the day. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Senate majority leader Jeb Bradley speaks during a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Democratic senators caucus in the corner of the New Hampshire Senate chamber during a brief recess in the middle of Thursday’s session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Senate minority leader Jeff Woodburn speaks during a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Senate majority leader Jeb Bradley is seen during a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • President of the Senate Chuck Morse presides over a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The Senate voted on right-to-work and concealed carry bills throughout the day. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro spoke passionately in opposition to the concealed carry and right-to-work bills voted on by the New Hampshire Senate on Thursday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Hampshire gun owners are one step closer to being able to carry a concealed weapon without first having to apply for a permit through a local police department.

Despite calls from Democratic senators for more time, the New Hampshire Senate passed the bill, 13-10, on Thursday, along party lines. Republican Sen. Bob Giuda of Warren was absent, due to a family matter.

The vote followed a spirited debate that lasted more than an hour, during which Democrats introduced two amendments, including one by Sen. Bette Lasky of Nashua to close the gun show loophole. Both amendments failed along party lines.

The debate followed two tracks. On one hand, there were Democrats who were adamant about leaving the old system in place to have local police departments decide who gets a concealed carry permit.

“Don’t ever take down a fence until you know why it was put up,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat from Dalton, noting that the current system has been in place since 1923. “Senate Bill 12 is a radical, dangerous break from tradition and common sense. It’s an ideological solution that’s looking for a problem.”

On the other side, Republicans said the current system can create unfairly long wait times for law-abiding citizens and impede their constitutional right to defend themselves.

“There seems to me to be a fundamental disconnect,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro said. “One side believes that we need to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens. Another side believes that by protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, we’re going to aid and abet criminal behavior. Is that how we see our friends and neighbors?”

Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester came armed with statistics about the number of people in his city and neighboring towns who apply for and receive concealed carry permits under the current system.

Out of the 2,477 people who applied in Manchester, D’Allesandro said 41 were refused by the police department. Out of the 456 people in Goffstown who applied, 13 got refusals.

“And the 41 that were denied were probably bad guys,” D’Allesandro said. “In my district, we have shootouts. We had two of them yesterday.”

D’Allesandro and Woodburn both argued that changing the system would make law enforcement and emergency responders less safe.

“There are bad people in this world, and those bad people do bad things,” D’Allesandro said. “Our guys are out there 24/7 protecting us and doing a good job. Why are we going to create something we don’t need?”

On the safety aspect, Bradley argued that denying women the right to carry concealed made them less safe.

Bradley cited the concerns of a woman who told him she had to wait more than 100 days to appeal a decision by her local police department to deny a permit renewal.

“That’s not a pause, that’s allowing a predator potentially to commit a crime,” Bradley said. “This is not radical, it’s not ideological. It’s practical.”

Gov. Chris Sununu praised the bill’s passage in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“I am pleased that the state Senate today voted to advance common sense legislation in support of a citizen’s fundamental right to carry a firearm, joining neighboring states throughout the region and across the country,” the statement reads.

The bill now continues to a public hearing and floor vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Gun issues surface during medical marijuana bill

Another Second Amendment issue came up in the Senate on Thursday during a discussion on medical marijuana bills.

Bradley put forward and eventually withdrew an amendment that would have required the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to notify patients in the therapeutic cannabis program that by getting a card, they were giving up their right to carry a firearm, get a security clearance or apply for a commercial driver’s license.

“This has to do with the fact that under federal law, possession of marijuana is a crime,” Bradley said. “We want to make sure that people who have a medical marijuana card are well aware of that.”

Sen. Sharon Carson, a Republican from Londonderry, said she was concerned that New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis patients “had no clue” what effect it could have on their Second Amendment rights.

“People should be notified that in order to get this card, they are going to lose their rights,” Carson said. “They’re not going to be able to own, possess, buy ammunition. That right is gone.”

But Republican Sen. John Reagan of Deerfield said he had never heard of this being an issue and questioned the validity of Carson’s claim.

“I haven’t had any person call me and say, ‘my pain’s relieved but I can’t buy a firearm,’ ” Reagan said. “I would urge my colleagues to vote no on this amendment because it hasn’t been vetted for truth and accuracy.”

Bradley ultimately withdrew the amendment so the issue could be studied further before it was voted on.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)