February 12. 2014 9:54PM

Background checks go down in defeat

Staff Report

CONCORD — Most were expecting an old-time gun duel Wednesday over House Bill 1589, which would require background checks for all commercial sales of firearms.

But instead, the House spent an hour-and-a-half in parliamentary maneuvering and debate before finally killing the bill on a 242-118 vote.

The House did vote 177-175 to approve a study committee to look at the relationship between the state’s good safety record and its gun laws. The study replaced the Commerce Committee’s recommended amendment, which passed on a 174-166 vote.

There were several attempts to table the bill or prevent the issue being discussed for the rest of the session, but all failed — as did an attempt to pass the study committee to the Senate on a 165-195 vote.

There was little debate on the bill’s contents, which would have expanded background checks to all commercial sales by requiring sales to be done through a federally licensed dealer.

Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association actively worked against the bill with calls and emails from members to lawmakers. Opponents said the bill would be “an egregious infringement on your 2nd amendment rights” and would eliminate any gun transactions between family and friends.

Richard Meany, R-Goffstown, likened the bill to death by a 1,000 cuts, with the ultimate goal of removing citizens’ firearms. “This is disarming citizens by cutting one ounce of flesh at a time to eliminate the legal means for obtaining firearms,” Meany said.

But bill supporters said the bill simply includes background checks for gun shows, flea markets, interstate and internet sales in order to prevent sales to those who should not have firearms. They said the bill does not interfere with anyone’s 2nd amendment rights and would not be the first step in establishing a national or state gun registry.

“This sends the message to the state and the country that New Hampshire not only respects the rights of law-abiding citizens to own a firearm, said Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton, “but we take seriously the responsibility that comes along with it.”

Originally the bill would have required that all firearms be sold or transferred through a licensed firearms dealer, ending private sales or sales through the Internet or at gun shows, flea markets and other commercial sales within the state’s borders. However the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals who know each other or are family members, and are not legally prohibited from having firearms, would be permissible under the bill.

According to the nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 17 states and the District of Columbia “have extended the background check requirement beyond federal law to at least some private sales,” while six states and the District of Columbia require “universal background checks at the point of sale for all transfers of all classes of firearms, including purchases from unlicensed sellers.”

“We all know we live in the safest state in the country,” said Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry. “We’re not like Michigan, you know Detroit, Chicago or New York; they have strict gun laws and you see what is happening.”

People who have been found mentally ill by a judge or who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility are barred from purchasing guns by federal law.

The law also prohibits gun ownership by felons and people under a domestic violence restraining order or convicted of domestic violence, and various other crimes.