In 2018, lawmakers will consider HB 1749. This bill would:
- reinforce the state’s authority over municipalities to prohibit or regulate firearms and other weapons
- render null and void any local ordinances prohibiting or regulating weapons
- impose penalties for local government officials and entities who make such ordinances in violation of state law
Current law for town bans on guns
As it stands, New Hampshire state law already prohibits towns and cities from passing their own restrictions on guns. Towns don’t have the power to—for example—ban residents from owning firearms.
Despite that, in recent months, in the wake of mass shootings across the country, some New Hampshire towns—namely Milford and Lebanon—have enacted local bans against shooting guns on certain town property.
Consequences for local officials
If HB 1749 becomes law, it would end all ordinances or rules made by any local public or private entity regarding the sale, use, or possession of firearms, their supplies, or knives. It would also impose penalties for local officials who knowingly pass such ordinances in violation of the state statute. These penalties include:
- fines of up to $5,000 per offense for local officials who knowingly violate the statute by passing local gun control ordinances
- officials who knowingly exceed their authority in this way may be fired or removed from office by the governor
- if such local rules or ordinances adversely affect a person or organization, that person can seek damages from the responsible entity. This includes actual damages (no more than $100,000) as well as reasonable attorney’s fees.
Pros and Cons
Proponents of HB 1749 argue it would ensure towns do not continue enacting their own ordinances which result in a patchwork of conflicting weapons policies throughout the state. They further contend that this law would merely give teeth to existing state law.
Opponents believe that local boards of selectmen and school boards should have the authority to limit or ban weapons in certain parts of their towns. They feel that decisions regarding weapons policy should be left up to those who will directly feel the consequences of such policies.
What do you think? Do you support legislation that would punish local governments for enacting their own gun regulations in violation of the state’s superior authority to do so? Let us know what you think – yes or no, and why – in the comment section below.