NH Dems fail to make House chamber a "gun-free zone"

NH Dems fail to make House chamber a "gun-free zone"
(AP Photo/Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Christopher Mullen)

One of the first gun control votes of the year didn’t turn out the way anti-gunners were hoping. On the first day of the New Hampshire legislative session, Democrats and Republicans debated a number of changes to how the House conducts its business; from remote participation to dealing with bills that are deadlocked in committee, and in some cases even found bipartisan agreement. That was not the case, however, when Democrats attempted to turn the House chamber into a “sensitive place” where guns would be banned.

With arguments like that, it’s no surprise that the attempt at creating a new “gun-free zone” didn’t pan out. It’s disturbing, however, to see just how close the voting turned out.

David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) requested that the ability of no one, except for on-duty law enforcement officials, should be able to carry or have a weapon in their possession in the House chamber, gallery and nearby rooms.

The current rule allows for concealed possession of a weapon.

Wilhelm and Meuse said that law enforcement officials are trained to keep others safe and possession of firearms by others could result in accidents or people getting unintentionally shot while those possessing concealed weapons responded to assailants.

Terry Roy (D-Deerfield) and J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) said that judicial precedent indicating that constitutional rights to bear arms supersede House rules and in emergencies, law enforcement officials may be too far away to provide protection where it is needed.

This motion failed 197-177

Since 2010, Republicans and Democrats have sparred over the policy, with Democrats imposing a ban when they’re in the majority and Republicans repealing the rule when they’re in control. While firearms have been allowed in the chamber there’ve been no incidents involving accidental or negligent discharges during that time period, but that fact, of course, was of no interest to the prohibitionists hoping to criminalize the right to carry inside the legislative chamber.

A Democratic leader and a father of a young potential visitor to the State House called the vote “irresponsible.”

Supporters of the rule argued that inadvertently, or in the heat of a debate, a weapon could discharge causing tragedy, noting that often children are in the gallery who could be hurt.

It was further argued that New Hampshire does not allow weapons to be carried into courtrooms and prisons and should not be allowed in these situations.

State Rep. Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, the minority leader, said the rule would “restore common sense.”

But opponents noted that when law enforcement is minutes away, a gun could be a way to keep the chamber safe.

Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, asked fellow legislators to imagine if they lived in a country where carrying a weapon was not a right.

“No House rule is going to stop a House member from defending themselves,” Roy said.

And now no House member has to worry about running afoul of a “gun-free zone,” at least in their own chamber.

This is a good sign for the start of the New Hampshire session, and hopefully it portends more defeats for the anti-gun lobby in the months ahead… not only in the Live Free or Die State but in statehouses from coast-to-coast as well.