Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why We Live in New Hampshire

You gotta love New Hampshire. Bill and I fled Massachusetts mainly because of that state’s restrictive gun laws. New Hampshire gun laws are few and far between, which is just the way we like it.

For those poor unfortunate gunnies who still live in Mordor Massachusetts, here are a few highlights of our adopted state’s laws. I'm not positing this to gloat; I’m posting this for educational purposes only (yeah right). Remember, I’m not a lawyer and I’m only pointing you to laws.

First, New Hampshire has a state preemption law (the main laws are cited here and this one is 159:26). That means that no gun-banning police chief, mayor, alderman, town manager can deny you a gun license simply because he doesn’t like you. In fact, there is no need to have a gun license if you aren’t going to carry a concealed gun. In Massachusetts, you must have a license even if you never take your rusty shotgun out of a closet.

New Hampshire has a shall-issue license to carry (159:6). Mine is a little rectangle of paper with my signature, the Deputy Police Chief’s signature, my name and address, and a brief description of me. It took me a couple of days to get it and it cost $10.00 total (no training fees, no nothing). As far as New Hampshire is concerned, I can carry in a church, school, and everywhere else except a courthouse (159:19). By the way, no photograph or fingerprints are required and state law demands that all license information remain confidential.

New Hampshire has barred itself from ever operating a “voluntary surrender and destroy” program otherwise known as a gun buyback (159:25). If someone’s silly enough to give the state a weapon, New Hampshire must sell it at auction or use it. I’m not sure, because of preemption, if this prevents a town from sponsoring a gun buyback. Still, it’s a step forward.

There are laws dealing with sales. In fact, there was once a record of sales law (159:9) that could have been an infringement on gun rights, but it was repealed in 1996. Someone who’s not in the gun business can sell a gun to someone personally known to them (159:14). I am not sure how one defines “known to them,” but it’s a lot better than Massachusetts’s registration and licensing scheme with all of its paperwork and demands.

Most of the other laws parallel Federal law—felons can’t possess a gun, no sales to minors although a parent can give a minor a gun (159:12), altering serial numbers, and provisions on committing crimes with guns.

Chapter 159 has four other parts (A-D). One was on the purchase of shotguns and rifles, which was repealed in 1996. Part B covers shooting ranges and gives full protection to ranges so long as they were present before noise ordinances were passed or neighbor complaints made.

To be complete, Part C dealt with a criminal history check and it was repealed in 1994. Finally Part D deals with the more recent criminal history checks. The Department of Safety is the point of contact for the NICS check made when one buys a gun and it cannot keep records on people who pass NICS check.

There are laws that govern how guns are used in hunting, but overall, New Hampshire gun laws are focused on illegal use of guns, not on simple ownership and lawful use. Contrary to Massachusetts’s laws, they are easy to read and understand (click here for an example of obtuse writing from a Massachusetts law).

Our gun laws probably aren’t as good for gunnies as Vermont’s laws, but still way to go New Hampshire.

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