House votes to expand background checks on private gun sales

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Some members of the House wear yellow scarfs to show their support for the Education Tax Credit scholarship program. A bill to eliminate the program was tabled by the House Tuesday. Photo/Garry Rayno

CONCORD, NH — The House believes higher thresholds are needed for gun sales that are not done by federally-licensed commercial dealers.

The House Tuesday voted to expand background checks before private gun sales or transfers can be completed, and to institute a seven-day waiting period before a sale can be finalized.

Supporters of House Bill 109, which would expand background checks for private sales, said it would close a loophole “you could drive a truck through.”

“Unlicensed private seller sales can be completed in minutes with no background check required,” said Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth. “(This allows) felons, domestic abusers and other prohibited parties to purchase a weapon without a background check.”

But opponents said the bill would require a background check between family members or between a gun instructor and his students when they pass a firearm back and forth.

“One representative said this is one small step forward. I asked what is one small step forward,” said Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown. “Press the red button so we don’t take one small step forward to gun confiscation, which is what this is all about.”

Rep. Terry Roy R-Deerfield, called the bill unreasonable and not what the people of the state want.

“The citizens I represent support background checks,” he said, “but this affects law-aiding citizens who want to transfer guns legally.”

But the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Kathy Rogers, D-Concord, said the bill exempts family members and friends and does not apply to firearms instructors and their students.

“We can’t revert to fear tactics on bills like this,” she said. “A simple background check reduces gun violence. It will make a difference, it will save lives.”

The bill passed on a 200-150 vote.

House Bill 514 would institute a seven-day waiting period before a person could take possession of a firearm after a purchase.

Supporters said the waiting period reduces the number of people taking their own lives with a firearm and the number of homicides.

“A cooling-off period reduces violence,” said Rep. Ray Newman, D-Nashua. “Guns are uniquely lethal in suicide attempts.”

But opponents said people in danger, particularly women, should not have to wait to purchase a firearm to protect themselves.

Rep. Tony Lekas R-Hudson, said when people are in real and immediate danger, they should be able to purchase a firearm without waiting.

“This is very unlikely to prevent someone form causing harm,” Lekas said, “but it well may result in the death of someone, most likely a woman.’

Others said it will require gun dealers to do greater record keeping which will increase prices for law-abiding citizens. And others said the waiting period is actually nine to 11 days because it does not count weekend days.

Rogers, the prime sponsor of the bill, said no bill will solve the problem but a waiting period will help.

She noted federal law allows someone to purchase a gun if a background check is not completed within three days, which has allowed 3,000 prohibited individuals to purchase firearms a year.

“A waiting period will not stop all acts of gun violence in New Hampshire, or prevent all suicides in the state or acts of domestic violence,” Rogers said, “but it is a step in the process.”
The bill passed on a 195-147 and now goes to the Senate.

The House also approved House Bill 605, which imposes criminal penalties for possession, transfer or manufacture of animal fighting paraphernalia on a 215-124 vote.

The House killed House Bill 208 which would have expanded the “stand your ground” law on a 203-148 vote.

Garry Rayno may be reached at