The Senate Judiciary committee is expected to hear testimony Thursday afternoon on a bill that would repeal the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed gun.
The hearing is likely to draw a large crowd of gun rights advocates and those who have concerns about loosening the state’s firearms regulations.
Wolfeboro Republican and Senate Majority Leader Jed Bradley is the bill’s prime sponsor.
He joined Morning Edition to talk about his proposal.
There are only four states that don’t require a permit to carry a concealed gun – Arizona, Wyoming, Vermont, and Alaska. Why add New Hampshire to that list?
Right now in New Hampshire, anybody that is legally entitled to own a legal firearm can carry it openly. And so allowing people to carry a concealed weapon, as most people choose to do as opposed to openly carrying a weapon, just makes common sense to me.
One of the states you cited – Vermont – has had the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit for years and it happens to be the safest state in the nation. So I actually think that if we allow what’s called constitutional carry, in other words without a permit, we’ll be an even safer state than we are today.
There’s going to be pushback on this from gun control activists, who would argue obtaining a permit is relatively easy in New Hampshire, but is still an important requirement.
Do you have issues with the permitting process, or is your issue simply with the principle of having to obtain a permit?
I think it’s a principle that under the Second Amendment and Article 2:A of the New Hampshire Constitution, we have a right to keep and bear arms. But also in 2013, there was a New Hampshire Supreme Court case that because somebody was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon, the language of that ruling by the Supreme Court said that under our statute today, the authorities that issue the permits – police chiefs, primarily – have some discretion as to whether they can in fact issue that permit for a concealed carry. So I think that not only is it a constitutional issue, but it’s also a practical issue.
Remember, we’re not expanding in any way who can own a firearm, nor are we expanding the types of firearms that people can own. It merely allows somebody who has the right already to openly carry a weapon to do so on a concealed basis. It’s a very modest piece of legislation.
There is a financial aspect to this. A fiscal note on your bill estimates this will cost the state $900,000 annually in revenue from permits issued to nonresidents. Any concerns about that?
I think that’s a small price to pay. We’ll see if less out-of-state residents avail themselves of the opportunity to get a permit in New Hampshire for purposes of reciprocity. I suspect we’ll lose some revenue, but again, I think that’s a very small price.
You haven’t been known for taking the lead on bills dealing with gun rights. Why now?
I’ve always believed in the Second Amendment. I think people have a right to defend their lives, their liberties, and their loved ones. It’s that simple.
If this bill makes through the Republican-led House and Senate, would you expect the support of Governor Maggie Hassan?
Again, I think it’s a modest bill. It’s a common sense bill. As I keep stressing, anybody that’s legally entitled to own a firearm can openly carry that today. So allowing them to do so on a concealed basis without a permit I think makes sense. Hopefully, if it gets that far to the governor’s desk, she’ll see it that way, too.