By KATHLEEN RONAYNE | Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Maggie Hassan stood firm against Republican-led efforts to roll back the state law regulating who can carry hidden guns.
In her veto message, Hassan said a bill to remove the licensing requirement for carrying concealed firearms would undo the state’s “common sense” gun laws.
“New Hampshire’s current concealed carry permitting law has worked well for nearly a century safeguarding the Second Amendment rights of our citizens while helping to keep the Granite State one of the safest states in the nation,” the Democrat said in a statement. “Our concealed weapons permitting system gives an important oversight role to local law enforcement, while allowing for appeals through appropriate channels.”
Existing state law allows anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it openly. But to carry it out of sight, such as in a purse or under a jacket, a person must get a license from local law enforcement or town officials. The police can take into consideration whether the person is “suitable” to hold a license, although there’s no definition of what “suitable” means. An officer could, for example, deny someone a license if he or she is frequently caught getting into fights, even if the person doesn’t have a criminal record.
Officials have 14 days to issue a license after the application is submitted and denials can be appealed in court.
Republicans were quick to criticize Hassan’s veto.
“Hassan is OK with justice for the wealthy,” said Republican Rep. JR Hoell, a co-sponsor of the bill. “The poor can’t afford to go to court to arbitrate every denial.”
Republican House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan said the license requirement impedes the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. He said his caucus will work to overturn the veto, although there are enough Democrats in both chambers to block an override. Other opponents of the licensing requirement have said it unfairly allows police to insert their personal bias into license decisions and can delay a person’s ability to protect himself or herself.
Six other states, including Vermont, do not require a permit or license to carry a concealed weapon, and Maine is likely to join the list soon.
The New Hampshire chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which met with Hassan on the day the House passed the bill, praised her decision to veto the legislation.
“We are grateful for Gov. Hassan’s leadership and commitment to working to reduce gun violence in New Hampshire,” volunteer Amy Moore said in a statement. “Her decision to maintain this critical system is a victory for public safety.”
Since licenses are issued at the local level, the state does not have data on how many people can carry concealed guns.