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February 10. 2014 5:04PM

Background checks: HB 1589’s friends & family plan

The original title of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for firearms purchases, was “An Act requiring background checks for all firearm sales.” That did not go over too well, so the bill was amended. The title of the amended version is “An Act requiring a criminal background check for certain firearm sales or transfers.” So, what changed?

The original bill was a regulatory disaster that required a federal background check for every firearm transfer (including loans) except between “immediate family members.” But even among family members, transfers were tightly restricted. The bill truly provided for “universal” background checks.

Though the amended version is much cleaner and far less burdensome, it also would require federal background checks for nearly every gun sale, even among friends and family members. The revised bill is written to cover only “commercial” firearms sales. Those are defined as “a sale, transfer, or exchange of a firearm that takes place at, or on the curtilage of, a gun show or pursuant to an offer to sell or buy a firearm that took place at a gun show, or pursuant to an advertisement, posting, listing, or display.”

What does “display” mean? Who knows? And what of the exception for “private” sales, which the majority of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee defines as sales “between two individuals who know each other and believe each member to the sale or transfer is not in a prohibited class?”

Many, if not most, private sales also will require background checks under HB 1589. “If the status of either party’s eligibility to own or possess a firearm cannot be ascertained, the transaction shall be completed through a federally-licensed firearm dealer,” the bill states.

In other words, if you cannot prove that your friend is legally eligible to own a firearm, you must sell through a licensed dealer. How would you prove that? By running your friend’s name through a federal background check.

Though vastly improved, the amended version of HB 1589 remains an attempt to record every firearm sale in New Hampshire, even private ones among friends and family members.


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