For House Bill 1589-FN, requiring a criminal background check for certain firearms sales or transfers, it was difficult for me and many other New Hampshire State Representatives to decide how to vote.
I voted against the bill because I didn’t believe it would solve the problems it was supposedly addressing. I don’t vote for poorly researched and written bills even when I agree with the aims of the sponsors. We too frequently leave the people of New Hampshire with laws that do little and are difficult to enforce.
Nine members of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee voted Ought to Pass and seven members voted Inexpedient to Legislate. At the full House session on February 12, there were eight votes taken over more than two hours on the bill and its two amendments before it was decided that this bill was Inexpedient to Legislate.
We all received many e-mails and letters from constituents and organizations about House Bill 1589. Some e-mails were serious pleas obviously written by our constituents.
Many citizens wanted us to pass anything that might stop the proliferation of guns, especially assault weapons, that have been used to kill school children and others in recent years. Other citizens were convinced that the bill would take away their right to collect and own guns for hunting and to defend their families.
Much of the correspondance we received was mass e-mails written by groups on either side of the issue that only required one to download the letter, insert one’s name, and hit the send button. Most of us look at mail that comes from our constituents and friends and pay careful attention to messages they wrote themselves. Of the more than 100 messages I received concerning House Bill 1589, I found only 10 that were actually written by the senders. Those were evenly divided for and against the bill.
I carefully read HB 1589-FN as first amended. While I would like to see the proliferation of assault weapons slowed, I was not convinced that this bill would accomplish this. We already have RSA 159:7, which states that anyone who sells a gun to a felon is guilty of a Class B felony. RSA 159:11 also makes one subject to being guilty of a Class B felony when giving false information when purchasing a firearm. Other sections of RSA 159 restrict the purchase and sale of firearms.
The many sections of RSA 159 are confusing at best. It would have been helpful if the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee in writing this bill had tried to simplify and bring order to the many sections of RSA 159. I also saw no provisions to exempt paintball guns or similar non-lethal outdoor game systems.
It is admirable that the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee tried to close the gun show loophole, but the solution proposed in amended HB 1589 seems difficult and, according to the bill’s fiscal note, expensive to enforce. There was no provision in the bill for funding the necessary additional Department of Safety positions.
A better solution might be to license gun shows and/or their organizers as firearms dealers. That way the procedures specified in the amended bill’s chapter 159-E:2, paragraph II could be completed at the gun show without having to worry about the seller delivering the firearm to an outside licensed dealer and the transaction being completed at that outside dealership.
I have been a gun owner since my uncle gave me my first .22 rifle 60 years ago. I am not an active hunter but occasionally use a firearm to shoot varmints. I believe in responsible gun ownership and use and don’t think we have a major problem of criminal use of firearms here in New Hampshire. That being said, I fail to see the need for automatic assault weapons outside of the armed forces or law enforcement.
Representative David Karrick
Merrimack District 25