Second Amendment Sanctuary Bill Hits Hurdle In New Hampshire

Second Amendment Sanctuary Bill Hits Hurdle In New Hampshire
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

As recently as a week ago, prospects for passage of a Second Amendment Sanctuary bill looked pretty good in New Hampshire. The Senate approved had approved legislation, and the House of Representatives endorsed SB 154 as well, though the ended up amending the bill in the process. Those amendments, however, ended up triggering (no pun intended) a renewed debate over the language in the legislation, and all of a sudden it’s an open question as to whether or not the bill will make it to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk.

In fact, some Second Amendment advocates say the legislation now looks more like a gift to gun control advocates than a defense of the right to keep and bear arms.

House and Senate Republicans signaled how much of a priority this bill was when they put Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, and House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, on the negotiating panel to craft a House-Senate compromise.

But many activists in the gun rights movement said the final product would permit local and state law enforcement to get involved in too many federal inquiries.

State Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, was the prime author of the 2017 state law that repealed the permit someone needed to carry a concealed handgun.

“There is a huge problem with this. I’m going to try and kill it,” Burt said during a telephone interview Wednesday. “It’s a darn shame. This started out with a lot of promise, but now there are many groups that see it as I do, an anti-gun bill.”

So what’s the issue, exactly? Some Second Amendment supporters, including Alan Rice of Gun Owners of America, say the version that was ultimately adopted by the conference committee would still allow police to intervene if there was “reasonable suspicion” that someone had violated a federal gun control law that was also of New Hampshire interest.

“There’s a company called Q LLC in Portsmouth that makes state-of-the-art gun silencers and they also make colorful T-shirts. Reasonable suspicion would be for police to stop someone for wearing a T-shirt because that person could possess an illegal firearm accessory,” Rice said. “Probable cause is a much higher standard.”

House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Chairman Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, urged the House to adopt the consensus agreement negotiators had reached last week.

“This policy will protect the people of New Hampshire’s Second Amendment rights from being infringed upon by any new policies that are not currently in effect,” Abbas said in his report to the House.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg of Hudson, president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, said the House might be able to rescue the bill when representatives meet at the N.H. Sportsplex in Bedford today .

“We do need to clarify what local police chiefs and sheriffs can do to help the feds in cases like when members of MS-13 gang come over the border with machine guns that are illegal under federal law,” Clegg said.

I can’t help but get the feeling that these lawmakers may be overthinking things a bit. What’s the intention behind the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement? To reject enforcement of any new federal gun control measure by state and local police, right? So why not simply make that clear in the legislation? If the issue needs clarifying, how about stating that the state and political subdivisions may not assist federal agencies in enforcing any non-violent, possessory firearm offense against someone who is not prohibited by state or federal law from owning a firearm?

Sadly, it sounds like the Second Amendment Sanctuary legislation may not make it to Gov. Sununu for his signature, despite a majority of the House and Senate agreeing in principle to curtailing cooperation with the Biden administration on enforcing new federal restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Saying he is aware the bill is in trouble in the House, Bradley suggested it might be best to start with a new bill in 2022.

“My sense is from what I am hearing is it is not likely to survive in the House,” Bradley said.

“Unfortunately if we had more time, I think we could address it. Once we got beyond executive orders, which the Senate passed, it opened the door to these kind of issues. Let’s remember, this is one of the safest states in the nation and we respect everyone’s firearm rights.”

If the bill truly is dead in the water, then what a wasted opportunity on the part of the Legislature. Intentions do matter, but results matter more, and expressing support for turning the state into a Second Amendment Sanctuary doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t turn a bill into law.

Frankly, given the fact that Biden’s gun control agenda doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in Congress at the moment, I would’ve passed the bill as amended by the House and work on any needed clarifications in the months ahead. Unfortunately that’s no longer an option, at least for this session, and while the legislature has approved a couple of pro-2A measures this year, Second Amendment Sanctuary supporters may very well end up disappointed and confused about why a pro-gun state legislature couldn’t turn a pro-gun bill into law.