Editorial: Gun bill a dangerous change

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Any day now, Gov. Chris Sununu will see SB 12, the bill allowing concealed firearms without a license, on his desk.

The bill, passed by the New Hampshire legislature, is being hailed by the National Rifle Association as an “important piece of legislation.”

“The New Hampshire legislature stood strong for freedom today,” said an NRA spokesperson.

The state’s police chiefs aren’t as thrilled as gun rights groups.

Pat Sullivan, the executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, issued a statement calling the bill “seriously flawed” due to its use of the all-encompassing term “firearms” instead of “pistol” or “revolver.”

“We would suggest people immediately call the governor’s office to stop this dangerous bill,” said Sullivan.

Some local chiefs echo their association’s statement and have rallied in support of the old law.

“I think it was a common sense law,” said Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen. “The current bill has some issues.”

Hautanen says he’s concerned the new legislation strips restrictions from the current law, removing provisions that allow local police chiefs or town officials to determine the “suitability” of an applicant for a concealed handgun.

Currently, police chiefs perform extensive background checks, which include searches of state and local criminal histories and follow-ups with the applicant’s listed references. Antrim Police Chief Scott Lester said most applications take less than one-and-a-half hours to complete.

In an email to the Ledger-Transcript, Jaffrey Police Chief Bill Oswalt said he’s rejected “very few” applications for concealed carry licenses but the process provides his department with “useful information,” especially “local knowledge of certain behaviors or conduct.”

Oswalt said he would prefer if the licensing process would continue “as it was.”

We support the Second Amendment and believe everyone has the right to own a gun. But times have changed — we know more about the effects of mental health on a person’s behavior. We have systems in place to perform thorough background checks.

Taking away those checks aren’t going to solve any of these issues. It will just take the decision-making power and information away from our trusted police chiefs.