N.H. Bill Upping Penalties for Certain Gun Sales Gets Mixed Review

Feb 16, 2016

A bill that would crack down on sales of firearms to people banned from having guns is working its way through the State House.  

It's now both a federal and state crime to knowingly sell a gun to a convicted felon. But the bill now before New Hampshire lawmakers would add drug dealers, the mentally ill, illegal aliens, or people dishonorably discharged from the military to that list.

Sgt. Sean Haggerty of the New Hampshire State Police said at a public hearing Tuesday that this bill would strengthen the laws already on the books. 

“Maybe (it will) put people on notice that you really should consider selling that firearm to be something important and something they should take great care in," Haggerty told lawmakers.

Haggerty also argued that this measure would cut down on the number of guns that are crossing state borders. According to federal data, in 2012 more than half of the guns that law enforcement seized in Massachusetts came from other states, mainly New Hampshire and Maine. 

The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office also testified in support of the bill, stating that it clarifies the categories of people who can buy firearms.

But opponents of the bill, such as Concord attorney Penny Dean, argued existing laws already cover this issue.

"There’s plenty of ways to prosecute people – I see this as just a backdoor attempt at trying to outlaw private sales," Dean testified. 

The bill is being considered by the House Criminal Justice Committee, after which it will head to the full House.