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House Rules Committee refuses to bend rules for 'bump stock' ban

State House Bureau

October 18. 2017 5:09PM
A bump-fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate is seen at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah. (REUTERS/George Frey)

CONCORD — The House Rules Committee refused Wednesday to bend the rules to allow a late bill banning bump stocks, the device used to deadly effect in the recent massacre at a Las Vegas concert.

The Rules Committee voted along party lines rejecting the request by Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, to introduce a late bill.

Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, said he'll now introduce a bump stock ban bill in the Senate.

The deadline for introducing bills in the House passed on Sept. 22, well before the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas, which raised awareness of the device that enables semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

"The reason for filing this after Sept. 22 is that the terrible tragedy in Las Vegas didn't happen until Oct. 1," said Shurtleff in introducing his request. "I am a licensed hunter and gun owner and I had never heard of bump stocks before Oct. 1. I was not aware these devices were available in the open market."

The 6-3 committee vote, with all Republicans opposed, came after House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, acting in his role as chairman of the Rules Committee, spoke against allowing the late filing. He said waiver of the House rules is not necessary to address the issue, since there is still time to introduce a bill in the Senate.

Sen. Woodburn has until Nov. 2 to introduce his bump stock ban in the Senate.

After the Rules Committee vote, House Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, predicted that a bump stock ban would not pass in the Republican-controlled House, even if it does clear the Republican-controlled Senate.

"I would guess that the count would not be in favor of passing it," he said. "My own personal feeling is that it's appropriately placed with the federal government. I'm huge when it comes to local control, but something like this is better dealt with by having the federal government go through the vetting process."

The proposed bill making it a crime to sell, import or possess a "multiburst trigger activator" in New Hampshire is based on a law already in place in California.

"I'm disappointed with the vote of the Rules Committee, especially that it was a party-line vote," said Shurtleff. "I look forward to working with friends in the Senate to try and get this passed. I think it would be good for New Hampshire, especially after what we saw in Las Vegas. To kick the can down the road to the Senate ... this was not the House's finest hour. We have always taken up new bills when new information comes forward."

Woodburn alluded to comments by Gov. Chris Sununu, who told the Union Leader recently that he would "definitely take a look" at such legislation.

"I'll be happy to take a look at it to make sure whatever steps we take are appropriate, fair and responsive to the needs and situations here in New Hampshire," he said.

Woodburn plans to present his bill to Sununu for feedback.

"We'll introduce it in the Senate and I'm grateful that the governor is open to it," he said. "Tomorrow I will send him a draft copy of the legislation and ask him to make any changes he would like to see."

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Thank you, Sununu