Law enforcement and higher education officials from across New Hampshire today called on the House to reject a bill that would allow guns in college classrooms, dorms, libraries and across public higher education campuses. House bill 334 is one of three the House could possibly take action on as early tomorrow that will severely weaken New Hampshire's decades-old gun laws and potentially put public safety at risk.
Governor John Lynch today joined New Hampshire police chiefs, sheriffs and officials from the Department of Safety and the state's university and community college officials in urging the House to vote down three bills that would weaken state gun regulations.
"These bills represent a radical departure from our approach to public safety here in New Hampshire," Governor Lynch said. "I am proud of the fact that we live in the safest state in the nation. New Hampshire is a place with very little violent crime, a place where families and seniors can feel safe in their homes, their neighborhoods and their communities. We need to be doing all we can to continue to ensure New Hampshire remains the safe state that it currently is."
Currently, state law gives public colleges and universities the discretion to regulate guns on campuses. House Bill 334 would eliminate that discretion and give sole authority to regulate guns on any public land or in publicly owned or financed buildings, except for courts.
This dramatic change in state law would eliminate prohibitions on guns at the Verizon Wireless Arena and Fisher Cat Stadium in Manchester. It would allow firearms to be carried at the State Hospital, which treats people suffering from mental illness, at the state's 10 county jails, and at state parks, including Hampton Beach.
Also, the state owns land and leases office buildings to private companies at Pease International Tradeport. This legislation would even prevent those private companies from prohibiting guns in their offices.
"I don't think that is a message we should be sending to businesses we are trying to bring to New Hampshire, and could threaten the success of Pease," Governor Lynch said. "I ask the House to listen our higher education administrators and to law enforcement and reject this reckless legislation. It is uncalled for and unnecessary."
In addition to House Bill 334, the House is will also soon take action on House Bills 536 and 194. House Bill 536 would allow just about anyone to carry a gun without a license, putting the public and law enforcement at an immediate disadvantage. Stripping away the permitting process, which has been in place for decades, would remove an important protection that helps ensure a person with a violent past, or a history of mental illness is not allowed to carry a concealed weapon.
House Bill 194 would drastically re-write the definition of a loaded rifle or shotgun, as a result, overturning a decades old law that prohibits carrying loaded rifles and shotguns in vehicles.
"It is absurd to believe that a rifle with bullets in it is not really loaded. It takes a fraction of a second move a round in the chamber of a rifle or a shotgun and shoot. That is a loaded gun, regardless of what the supporters of this bill say," Governor Lynch said.
Under this bill, a rifle or shotgun would not be considered loaded if there were bullets in the gun, as long as a round was not in the chamber. Current law and common understanding consider a rifle when there are bullets in it - whether there is a round in the chamber or not.
"The combination of these bills has the real potential to lead to an increase in violence. And with the legislature's recent expansion of deadly force, and I am very concerned that New Hampshire cannot and will not be as safe as it currently is. That is why if these bills reach my desk, I will veto them," Governor Lynch said. "I support gun rights and the rights of responsible gun owners are already protected here in New Hampshire. The limited restrictions we do have in place now are proper, and constitutional."