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Amid renewed calls for reform, N.H. Republicans are seeking to block local enforcement of federal gun laws

Michael Saechang
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Flickr / Creative Commons (Https://Creativecommons.Org/Licenses/By-Sa/2.0/)
Democrats in the NH State House oppose the measure, arguing the prohibitions will make it harder for local law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Republican lawmakers in the New Hampshire House and Senate are backing a bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement personnel from enforcing any federal gun laws that are inconsistent with state laws.

The measure, which has already cleared both chambers, seeks to blunt the potential for either executive action or congressional legislation to tighten national gun restrictions.

“The federal government could send out ATF or the FBI or whatever, to enforce that law, but the state enforcement agents would not be able to assist in that,” said Rep. Bob Lynn of Windham, a Republican backer of the bill.

In practice, Lynn said, the measure, HB 1178, would restrict any local enforcement of potential federal prohibitions on the purchase or ownership of semi-automatic rifles, restrictions on magazine capacity, or rules related to “ghost guns,” which are unserialized guns sold in parts.

Speaking a day after the massacre that killed 21 people inside an elementary school in Texas, the latest in a long string of mass shootings in America, Lynn said gun control measures backed by Democrats wouldn’t stop these crimes.

“I think the answer to things like this, to the extent there is an answer, and I’m not saying there is any kind of panacea, much more involves mental health type issues than the gun issue, itself,” he said.

Democrats in the State House oppose HB 1178, arguing the prohibitions will make it harder for local law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

“It is very, very difficult to pass any law that stops anyone from committing a crime,” said Rep. David Meuse, a Democrat from Portsmouth. “But one of the things that we can do is we can actually find ways to reduce the risk of those things from happening.”

Meuse added that lawmakers have a duty to uphold constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms, but that there is an equally strong responsibility to protect innocent lives.

“We are there to protect Second Amendment rights, but we are there to protect public safety, and ensure that kids don’t have to worry, or maybe can worry a little bit less, when they go to school in the morning,” he said.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on whether he would sign the measure into law.

Copyright 2022 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

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.