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Gun bills likely to make a comeback in 2021

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In 2019 Gov. Sununu vetoed several gun control bills passed by Democratic legislators.  Legislators reintroduced many of those bills in 2020, only to be thwarted by the coronavirus shutdown.  In September legislators will start requesting bills for 2021, and some of these gun control bills are bound to make a reappearance. 

Expanded background checks for firearm sales 

Legislators have introduced several bills over the years that would require background checks for private firearms sales and exchanges.  Supporters argue this closes a loophole that lets potentially dangerous people purchase firearms at gun shows or yard sales.  Opponents argue the “gun show loophole” is essentially a myth, and these bills would prevent even family members from exchanging firearms. 

Last year Gov. Sununu vetoed HB 109, a bill to expand background checks.  The House took up the issue again in 2020 through HB 1379.  Due to coronavirus interruptions the Senate never held a public hearing on the bill, so it will probably die in committee.   

Background check expansion bills have popped up for several years, now, so expect the issue to reappear in 2021. 

Waiting period for firearm purchases 

In 2019 Gov. Sununu vetoed HB 514, which would have created a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases.  The House passed a similar bill in 2020, HB 1101, but the Senate tabled the bill after the coronavirus shutdown. 

Supporters of a waiting period argue that it prevents impulsive violence, including suicide.  Opponents argue it’s an ineffective inconvenience, and potentially dangerous if someone needs a firearm for self-defense. 

Given the two similar bills in 2019 and 2020, waiting periods are likely to make a comeback in 2021. 

Firearm ban on school property 

State law prohibits students from bringing guns to school, but the law doesn’t address adults.  Under federal law, adults with concealed carry licenses can bring firearms onto school grounds. Local police departments do not enforce federal law, however, and others argue that even licensed firearms are inappropriate on school property.   

In 2019 Gov. Sununu vetoed HB 564, a bill to ban firearms on school grounds.  The House passed a similar bill in 2020, HB 1285. The Senate tabled that bill after the coronavirus shutdown. 

The legislature has been voting on guns in school zones for over a decade, so this is issue is very like to reappear in 2021. 

“Red Flag Law” 

HB 687 is a 2020 bill that would establish “extreme risk protection orders,” similar to a so-called “red flag law.”  Someone could petition a court for an order based on evidence that there is “a significant risk of [a person] causing bodily injury to himself or herself or others.”  That person would then have to surrender firearms to law enforcement. 

Supporters argue that these court orders can save lives.  Opponents are concerned about due process for those who could lose valuable firearms. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing on HB 687 via Zoom on June 24.  That means the whole Senate may get a chance to vote on HB 687 before the legislative session wraps up on June 30.  Even if the bill passes the Senate, however, it faces an uphill battle with Gov. Sununu.  Assuming Sununu vetoes the bill, expect a similar proposal in 2021. 

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