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NH Senate Republicans block guns bills, including ‘red flag’ law and waiting period

A display case at a New Hampshire gun shop
NHPR file photo
A display case at a New Hampshire gun shop

New Hampshire Senate Republicans blocked an effort to enact an extreme risk protection order system, sometimes referred to as a “red flag” law.

The proposal up for debate Thursday would have allowed someone’s relatives or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms out of concern that they are a danger to themselves or others.

If passed, New Hampshire would have joined approximately 20 other states that have enacted red flag laws. A red flag proposal cleared the New Hampshire Legislature in 2020 but was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu, while another effort failed last legislative session.

The Republican Senate majority also voted down a bill to expand background checks to all commercial sales and one to impose a three-day mandatory waiting period on gun purchases.

The red flag law bill was backed by Democrats who argued it could help prevent suicides, the leading cause of gun deaths in New Hampshire, and other acts of gun violence. During more than an hour of debate on the floor Thursday, Senate Democrats pointed to the near daily mass shootings happening across the country, and in particular, the violence in Lewiston, Maine last October that killed 18 people.

“How many more survivor families need to come here and testify and expose their pain?” Sen. Debra Altschiller, a Democrat from Stratham, asked her colleagues. “How many more bodies need to pile up before you start to feel again?”

Republicans argued the bill would violate a person’s constitutionally protected gun rights and would do little to address to root cause of suicide.

“We are not doing anything to address the fact that this person is having suicidal thoughts,” said Sen. Daryl Abbas, a Republican from Salem. “It focuses solely on disarming a person, without actually offering them any other help.”

Abbas said the state should instead continue investing in mental health services.

Republicans also argued the red flag law and other gun restrictions up for debate Thursday violated Second Amendment rights and would have done little to prevent crime.

“Criminals do not get guns through legal means,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, a Republican from Londonderry, speaking out against the proposal to mandate background checks on all commercial gun transactions.

Democrats said the expanded background check measure would have closed a “loophole” that permits private sales with no background checks among a buyer and seller who may not know each other.

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Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.