It’s one of the biggest Second Amendment stories of 2020, and has the potential to be a huge issue this year as well; the long waits and delays for many Americans attempting to purchase a firearm. From the FOID card delays in Illinois to the months-long waits for concealed carry licenses in places like Philadelphia, it’s not hyperbolic to say that hundreds of thousands of us have had our rights put on hold thanks to the inability or unwillingness of local and state governments to process applications in a timely manner.
In New Hampshire, gun buyers have seen some long delays thanks to the state’s Gun Line, which is a state-run system that processes background checks for all handgun sales. Officials with the state’s Department of Safety, which oversees the Gun Line, say that the delays are due to the increased demand, but that changes to the system have been implemented and they’re hopeful that prospective gun buyers won’t be forced to wait for weeks or months in some cases before they’re approved.
That’s not good enough for many gun owners in the state, who say if New Hampshire officials can’t conduct the checks in a reasonable amount of time, then they shouldn’t be the ones doing the checks in the first place.
Alan Rice, state director for Gun Owners of America, said in a recent news release that “the governor can easily issue an executive order telling the state police to cease to conduct these checks. If that happens, by default, all checks will be conducted by the FBI.” The New Hampshire Department of Safety acts as a point of contact for the federal government’s NICS as allowed by state law.
“Gun owners will face fewer delays if they only have to clear one set of hurdles (at the federal level), as opposed to also forcing gun buyers to submit to state-mandated background checks, which then add another level of potential delays,” says Rice.
Executive Councilor Dave Wheeler tells NHJournal Rice’s idea is bad.
“The gun line has been a sore spot for gun owners all year, but with Republicans in charge, we can fix the problems permanently instead of giving more control to the federal government. We should be going the other direction, taking more control back from the feds,” he says.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t keep this in state. Gun policy and legislation should be decided here in the Granite State, not handed over to a Biden administration that has openly campaigned on taking away our Second Amendment rights,” Wheeler says, adding he’s been working with the Attorney General and Department of Safety to ensure the gun line works as intended with minimal delays.
The issue could come to a head in the coming weeks, thanks to a bill introduced by Sen. Bob Giuda. According to the NH Journal, Guida’s legislation would permanently shutter the Gun Line and mandate that the NICS system be used for all retail firearm transfers, including handguns.
Attorney Sean List says he drafted the language for Senator Giuda and the bill is something “every gun dealer in the state supports.” List, who represents several federal firearms licensees and individuals with firearm relating issues throughout the state, tells NHJournal that the delays at the gun line “has come at a great cost to the economic wellbeing of dealers and the constitutional rights of firearm owners and purchasers.”
“In short: the Gun Line still enters information into the federal system while delaying and denying the rights of purchasers without providing due process. Even worse, they are causing people to wait many months, frequently more than six, to have their firearms returned at the expiration of court proceedings. We are currently paying for a broken system and an extra layer of government involvement when the FBI does the checks efficiently and is already funded to do so with our federal tax dollars,” List says on a New Hampshire Firearms Coalition Facebook Post regarding the gun line proposal.
List alleges that “when background checks result in denials, the gun line has made it nearly impossible to appeal. They simply fail to respond to people seeking appeals, even though federal law requires them to do so,” and adds that the Gun Line has “on multiple occasions, failed to timely deny firearms purchases to prohibited individuals.” In other words, the system is too broken to fix, and needs to be scrapped instead.
While I appreciate the argument that New Hampshire should try to get federal involvement in gun laws to a minimum, the fact remains that if the state can’t fulfill its obligations in a timely manner, gun owners and gun store owners alike are going to look elsewhere for relief. I’m very curious to see how this debate plays out in the Live Free or Die state in the coming legislative session, but if public officials want to see the Gun Line remain active they’d better be able to tell lawmakers that the problems plaguing the system in 2020 have been addressed and resolved.