Thursday, March 15, 2007

WMUR Coverage of SB44 Hearing

N.H. Lawmakers Debate New Bill To Tighten Gun Permits

CONCORD, N.H. -- A new plan proposed to tighten restrictions on all state gun permits drew fierce opposition from gun owners on Thursday.

Angry gun owners packed a Senate hearing room to register disapproval in the proposed gun permit crackdown.

That's funny. I was in that room this morning for the duration of the hearing, and I didn't see any angry gun owners.

I saw concerned gun owners.

I saw vigilant gun owners.

I saw politically aware gun owners.

I saw a large number of gun owners smiling, clapping and shaking hands with one another at the conclusion of the hearing. But, not one angry gun owner.

"It's fixing a problem we don't have," said one gun owner.

"If anyone thinks a terrorist will be dissuaded by a law it's wrong," said another gun owner.

They're talking about a bill offered by state Sen. Peter Burling, D-Cornish, who said the current state police background check for gun licenses doesn't protect residents from gang members and terrorists.

As one of the speakers said (again, I'm paraphrasing somewhat):

"The citizens in this room aren't afraid of gang members and terrorists. They're afraid of overzealous police chiefs and government officials trampling on their rights."

"If someone walked in and said, 'I'm from al-Queda, and I'd like a permit,' there is no legal way to deny a permit absent a felony," said Burling.

Because everyone knows terrorists and gang members are (a) legally acquiring their firearms, and (b) carrying them concealed only when they can get permission from the state to do so.

Burling offered a bill to empower selectmen and local police to deny gun permits if they reasonably believe that a person is a terrorist or a member of a criminal group.

Burling said he offered the bill after a young person in Lebanon applied for and received a gun permit, even after admitting to being part of a criminal gang and having been arrested several times, though never convicted.

Guilty until proven innocent. What's not to love?

But critics said the bill offered no definition of a terrorist and gives local officials too much power over who gets gun permits.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Alan Rice of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition. "There's no evidence that terrorists and criminals can obtain use of firearms in the state of New Hampshire."

Lawmakers agreed with gun owners, voting 5-0 to recommend killing the bill.

Toto, we're not in Boston anymore.

Burling offered an amendment to fashion the law after Vermont, which lists who is not allowed to get a gun permit.

Not exactly. The amendment, from I heard from Senator Burling's hurried reading of it, still contained the language that would have given the police chiefs far too much discretion in denying licenses.

That was also rejected. sad.

A full Senate vote is expected next week.

You know what to do.

UPDATE: WMUR video here.

UPDATE II: By wolfwalker in the comments:

A point you missed, Bruce:

"Angry gun owners packed a Senate hearing room to register disapproval in the proposed gun permit crackdown."

Crackdown? What the --? I thought this was supposed to be a minor change to fix a loophole in the current law, suggested by a single incident last year. "Crackdown" suggests it's a major problem that needs a forceful solution.

Good point.