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Mark Fernald: How Do We Keep Guns Away From “Bad Guys”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA President Wayne LaPierre just after the Sandy Hook massacre. If a ‘bad guy’ pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the only answer, according to Mr. LaPierre, is for someone to pull out another gun and take the ‘bad guy’ out.

The NRA and the Republican Party advocate what they call “Constitutional carry”—allowing anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, at any time and anywhere (excluding, one presumes, people with felony convictions). Republicans all over the country are attacking background checks, gun-free zones, and laws that require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon.

The Democratic Party approach is different; it focuses on preventing people likely to misuse guns from getting them in the first place. The background check law has stopped over 1.5 million ‘bad guys’ from buying guns since 1994. That law passed after a Republican filibuster failed.

Unfortunately, our background check system has a couple of glaring loopholes. It does not cover sales of guns by unlicensed sellers at gun shows or sales between private parties, so any ‘bad guy’ who wants to buy a gun has an easy workaround.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to require a background check for all gun sales. Republicans seem to value easy access to guns over a system that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and people with severe mental disabilities.

This is not about Constitutional rights. Background checks and concealed carry permits are Constitutional. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that the right to bear arms is limited: It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia specifically referenced prior court decisions that upheld restrictions or bans on carrying concealed, loaded weapons.

For 94 years, New Hampshire has required a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in a car or on your person. The permits are issued by the chiefs of police in each city and town. The law states that permits can be issued to “a suitable person to be licensed.”

Our chiefs of police have taken their responsibility seriously, seeking out the record and the reputation of those applying for a concealed carry permit. Sometimes an applicant is an irresponsible citizen who is not suitable for a permit: a person who has a history of getting drunk in bars and picking fights; a person who has threatened someone with a gun in the past, though never convicted of a felony; a person who has been involved in road rage incidents; a person who has been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls to 911.

Under current law, if a person has committed an act of violence below the felony level, it is legal for that person to have a gun at home. But if that person wants to carry a loaded concealed weapon in public, New Hampshire has a higher standard implemented by our chiefs of police.

The State Senate and the House have now passed SB12, which eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon. In the Senate, the ten Democrats were the only no votes. Thirteen Republicans voted yes. The vote in the House was nearly as lopsided. Only two Republicans voted no, and only ten Democrats voted yes.

The effect of SB12 is to remove the discretion of chiefs of police to deny permits. Republicans talk about law and order; they should trust the chiefs of police to exercise good judgment in determining who should be allowed to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. This is what Republicans and the NRA have now abolished.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against SB12. Their arguments fell on deaf ears. The Governor has indicated he will sign SB12.

If you have a chance to speak to your Representative or Senator or the Governor, ask these questions: Should an alcoholic with multiple DWI convictions be allowed to carry a loaded concealed weapon? How about the man who punched his neighbor during an argument? Or the woman who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and sometimes fails to take her meds?

Once Republicans have succeeded in passing SB12, almost anybody could be carrying a loaded, concealed weapon—even people with violent histories. And our only defense, in this Republican world, will be to avoid the first shot, and try to return fire.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor. He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

NH House Committee Approves Overturning 94 Year Old Concealed Carry Law

Granite State Progress Statement on NH House Committee Vote to Allow Dangerous People to Legally Carry Hidden, Loaded Weapons (SB 12)

House Committee votes to overturn 94 year old New Hampshire public safety law 

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee held a public hearing and executive session today on SB 12, which seeks to repeal a 94 year old concealed carry licensing law that helps prevent dangerous people from being able to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“New Hampshire is opening the door to allow dangerous individuals with a track record of violence to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. It is reasonable to deny concealed carry permits to those who are a danger to themselves or others. Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 12 is a radical piece of legislation that will jeopardize public safety. 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. For example, if an individual in a community is a known domestic abuser but has yet to be indicted, or has a hot temper and a habit of getting into bar fights, New Hampshire thankfully provides our local police departments with the ability to reject their concealed carry application.” 

In testimony Granite State Progress called on state legislators to decide whether they stand on the side of law enforcement and public safety – or with those like Mark Doyon, whose concealed carry license denial was upheld in court:

“In a 2014 NH Supreme Court case, an individual named Mark Doyon sued the town of Hooksett for denying his concealed carry license. Doyon had a prior criminal threatening conviction and an arrest for domestic violence, among other things. He told a Manchester police officer, “If you f.-k with my dog, I’ll f.-king kill you.”  The NH Supreme Court noted that on his domestic violence-related simple assault charge: “As part of a negotiated agreement, the town placed the charge on file without a finding, and a criminal bail protective order was entered against the petitioner prohibiting him from contacting the complainant.” On paper, Doyon was not a prohibited person, but in real life, he was not a suitable person to carry a hidden, loaded weapon. The courts sided with the local police department. As members of the committee, you need to decide whether you stand on the side of someone like Doyon, or whether you stand with the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement who have spoken out against this repeal repeatedly over the years.” 

In addition to local law enforcement opposition, in 2004 Senate President Chuck Morse and several Republicans voted against a similar repeal bill. A copy of Granite State Progress testimony in opposition to SB 12 is available upon request, along with more information about how concealed carry laws work. It also includes recommendations for ways New Hampshire can strengthen public safety laws, rather than weakening them.

Republicans In NH Senate Vote To Make NH Less Safe, Repeal 94 Year Old Conceal Carry Permit Law

The New Hampshire State Senate voted on party lines today to pass SB 12, which seeks to repeal a 94 year old concealed carry licensing law that helps prevent dangerous people from being able to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. 

The bill was opposed by gun violence protection groups as well as many of New Hampshire’s law enforcement.  The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police testified against a similar piece of legislation last session, and in 2004 Senate President Chuck Morse and several Republicans voted against a similar repeal bill.

“SB 12 is another attempt by the gun lobby to allow anyone in New Hampshire to legally carry a hidden, loaded handgun. Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 12 is a radical piece of legislation that will jeopardize public safety. 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. For example, if an individual in a community is a known domestic abuser but has yet to be indicted, or has a hot temper and a habit of getting into bar fights, New Hampshire thankfully provides our local police departments with the ability to reject their concealed carry application. 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,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. 

Sen. Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) released the following statement after passage of the bill: 

“For decades, New Hampshire’s concealed carry permitting law has effectively safeguarded our Second Amendment rights while helping to keep New Hampshire one of the safest states in the nation. Repeal of the common sense measures outlined in this law will make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs and needlessly put the people of New Hampshire at higher risk,” said Senator Lasky, Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Democrats offered two amendments to address flaws in SB 12. Senator David Watters (D-Dover) introduced an amendment that would clarify the language of the bill to allow Fish and Game to do their jobs to monitor poaching in the state. Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) introduced an amendment to require background checks for gun owners applying for concealed carry permits. Both amendments were defeated along party lines.

“Given the ramifications of this legislation, I’m concerned that Governor Sununu and Senate Republicans are rushing this legislation so quickly through the legislature and I’m disappointed by the outcome of today’s vote.”

In Party Line Vote, Senate Sustains Veto Of SB 336, The Repeal Of Licensing For Concealed Carry

Granite State Progress Applauds NH State Senate for Sustaining Governor’s Veto of SB 336, Which Would Have Allowed Dangerous People to Legally Carry Hidden, Loaded Guns

In party-line vote, Democrats stand with NH Association of Chiefs of Police, public safety advocates to keep 93 year old New Hampshire law in place

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire State Senate voted on party lines today to sustain Governor Maggie Hassan’s veto of SB 336, which sought to repeal a 93 year old concealed carry licensing law that requires an individual to be a suitable person to carry a hidden, loaded handgun in New Hampshire. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“SB 336 was another attempt by the gun lobby to allow anyone in New Hampshire to legally carry a hidden, loaded handgun. Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 336 was a radical piece of legislation that would have jeopardized public safety. New Hampshire does not require people to have a specific reason to conceal carry but it does require that the applicant be a suitable person. This common sense law allows local police departments to deny a license when there is reason to believe a person is a danger to themselves or others. For example, if an individual in a community is a known domestic abuser but has yet to be indicted, or has a hot temper and a habit of getting into bar fights, New Hampshire thankfully provides our local police departments with the ability to reject their concealed carry application. New Hampshire is one of more than 40 states that currently require a license to carry concealed weapons and we should not weaken our public safety laws now.”

After the vote, Governor Maggie Hassan released the following:

“New Hampshire’s current concealed carry law – which former Republican Governor Mel Thomson called a ‘sensible handgun law’ – has worked well for nearly a century, safeguarding the Second Amendment rights of our citizens while helping to keep the Granite State one of the safest states in the nation. I shared the same public safety concerns that law enforcement, public safety officials and citizens had about Senate Bill 336, which would have undermined our efforts to maintain public safety by removing the protections that the permitting process offers to help ensure that potentially dangerous individuals are not allowed to carry hidden weapons. As I always have, I continue to support the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to responsibly own guns for personal safety, hunting, and recreation, and I will continue working with law enforcement, public safety officials and citizens across New Hampshire to ensure that we continue balancing the rights of gun owners with the rights of all New Hampshire citizens to be safe in their communities.”

After the vote, Sen. David Watters (D-Dover) released the following comments: 

“New Hampshire is continually rated one of the safest states in the nation and there is no overriding reason to make changes to our concealed carry law that has served us well for close to a century. As a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights, I know that our current permitting process provides an important oversight role to our local law enforcement, an appeal process, and a common sense way to ensure that potentially dangerous individuals are not allowed to carry hidden weapons.” 

“I am proud that the Senate sustained the Governor’s veto and I am proud to stand with our law enforcement, public safety officials, and citizens across New Hampshire who are concerned with any adverse effects this legislation may have caused and maintained our common sense concealed carry law so that we can ensure that New Hampshire remains one of the safest states in the nation.”

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police testified against SB 336, and in 2004 Senate President Chuck Morse and several Republicans voted against a similar repeal bill. This is the third time the Governor has vetoed this legislation.  A copy of Granite State Progress testimony in opposition to SB 336 is available by request, along with more information about how concealed carry laws work.

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