Feb 22, 2017 12:51 PM
CONCORD - With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Chris Sununu made it easier for many Granite Staters to carry concealed weapons.
In front of a large audience of Republican state lawmakers and gun rights activists, the governor Wednesday signed into law a measure repeals the need for a permit or license to carry a concealed handgun.
But a leading opponent of the new law, which takes effect immediately, warned that “we are going to see significant ramifications.”
As he signed the bill, Sununu said “it is commonsense legislation that finally aligns our concealed carry laws with those of our neighboring states of Vermont and Maine and other states across the country. This is about safety. This is about making sure that our laws on our books are keeping people safe while remaining true to that live free or die spirit that makes New Hampshire the great state that it is.”
The bill passed the GOP dominated state Senate by a 13-10 party line vote last month. Earlier this month, by a two-to-one margin, the measure easily sailed through the Republican controlled state House of Representatives.
Similar bills passed the GOP dominated state Senate and state House of Representatives the past two years, but were both vetoed by then-Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Her predecessor in the Corner Office, fellow Democratic Gov. John Lynch, vetoed similar measures in 2006 and 2011.
But Sununu, the first Republican governor in New Hampshire in a dozen years, had repeatedly said he’d sign the bill into law.
"This is a commitment that I made to the people of New Hampshire and today I’m proud to fulfill that commitment in signing Senate Bill 12 into law," the governor declared.
State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told NH1 News "what the opponents of this bill forget is that it’s about protecting the rights of law abiding citizens. We've not enabled criminals to have easier access to guns, nor should we. We want to make sure that law abiding citizens are protected and that they are not judged as to whether their suitable, if they’re a law abiding citizen and entitled to own a firearm, to be able to get a concealed carry permit.”
The Republican lawmaker from Wolfeboro and former congressman, who sponsored the bill, known formally as SB12, added that "this is a long time coming, but finally it has come."
He pointed to the neighboring states of Vermont and Maine, which don’t require permits to carry concealed handguns.
"As I’ve stressed repeatedly, Vermont is the safest state in the nation, and it’s never had a permit for a concealed carry. I think New Hampshire now will become even safer. Our ranking is good, but it will be better after this," Bradley added.
And he applauded the team effort in getting the legislation passed into law.
"We were able to bring everybody together," Bradley said. "I think that various groups that support the 2nd Amendment worked hard on this language a couple of years ago to make sure it was correct, that there weren’t any technical problems in it."
Warnings of 'significant ramifications'
Current law gives local police chiefs the right to determine if a person's "suitable" to carry a concealed weapon.
And opponents of the bill, including state House of Representatives Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, argued that the current law worked.
"A concealed carry law has been in place for 94 years. It is often cited in FBI statistics as one of the safest states in the nation," said Shurtleff, a retired U.S. deputy marshal.
And he raised alarms, saying, "if this law is repealed, individuals who should not be carrying a concealed weapon such as those suffering from dementia and alcoholism will be permitted to carry a concealed weapon."
Longtime state Sen. Lou D’Alessandro, who opposed the bill, told NH1 News that "we have shootings in Manchester on a nightly basis. It’s a very dangerous thing to allow concealed carry. It’s very dangerous. The permit system worked well. Even Gov. Meldrim Thomson, the most conservative guy New Hampshire’s seen a in long time, supported the existing legislation."
"Why did we change it? Why? I have no idea. I have no idea. But we are going to see signification ramifications from the passage and the signing of this bill," the Democratic lawmaker from Manchester warned.
And Democratic state Sen. Dan Feltes, of Concord, criticized the new law, telling NH1 News, "I think it’s a misplaced priority."
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