NH Lawmaker Tries to Use Lewiston To Push Background Checks

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

If you go to a gun store to buy a firearm, you have to go through a background check. It’s federally mandated and it’s a law that there’s really no push to change right now.


Well, not in any way we would like that is.

Some want to expand them so that it would require everyone to go through the process. We argue against them, primarily because the laws are often clunky and require background checks for loans or even inheritance while doing nothing to inhibit criminals buying and selling guns on the black market.

Which brings me to Lewiston.

Why does it bring me to a mass shooting where background checks weren’t even an issue? Because one New Hampshire lawmaker is trying to invoke Lewiston to push her failed background check bill.

The shocking events in Lewiston will take a while to process. I’m not interested in assessing blame, because that will not bring back to life the family, friends and neighbors who were gunned down. What I want to focus on is what we can do to try to prevent such carnage from happening here. There are myriad steps we could take. Here is just one example.

In the spring of 2023, I was the prime sponsor of HB59, an act requiring a background check prior to any commercial firearm sale. The bill was defeated by the NH house of representatives  by a vote of 197-175.

It should be noted that the term “commercial firearm sale” would really only cover gun stores anyway, which are already required to conduct background checks. Assuming, of course, that the author, Rep. Marjorie Smith, knows what she’s talking about.


However, she admits that she really doesn’t know much about guns or buying them.

I am not an expert on guns. But I do know a fair amount about people, most of them, including, overwhelmingly, gun owners, believe in gun safety.  This bill is to protect us from those few who purchase and misuse guns for reasons that no responsible gun owner or caring citizen would support – to harm others, and perhaps, to harm themselves.

Never having purchased a gun, I was interested to learn how easy it would be to purchase a gun legally.  There are nearly 59,000 unique gun dealers across the country, four times as many as there are McDonald’s and nearly twice as many as U.S. post offices. Gun owners who buy a gun from a dealer know how easy the background check is.  In this state and almost every other state, no one lives more than 10 miles from a licensed firearm dealer.

So she’s never undergone the background check process herself, but she knows just how easy it is and she wants you do know just how easy it is too.

And no one lives more than 10 miles from a licensed gun dealer anyway, so a universal background check law is small potatoes.

Is it, though?

First, she doesn’t say where she got the total number of gun dealers from, but few such efforts to compile gun dealers actually differentiate between gun stores and kitchen table FFLs. A significant number of those 59,000 are the latter, which means gun stores aren’t as common as Smith would like you to believe.


And while a background check might go smoothly, it also might not, thus eliminating Smith’s claim that they’re easy. What’s more, it seems like she knows that they’re not all nice and smooth since she also boasts about her bill closing the “Charleston Loophole.”

This bill closed what is referred to as the Charleston loophole.  Under federal law, a licensed dealer may proceed with the sale of a firearm after three business days even if the mandated background check has not yet been completed and there’s been no confirmation that the purchaser is legally permitted to have guns. The perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting—who was legally prohibited from having guns—was able to use this loophole to purchase the gun he used in that tragedy before the background check was completed. This bill would have closed the “Charleston Loophole” in New Hampshire by providing law enforcement officials sufficient time to complete a background check on a prospective purchaser to ensure that prohibited people cannot purchase firearms in New Hampshire

Smith fails to mention, though, that the three day limit is there specifically to give time for law enforcement to do just that. If they’re unable to do it in that time limit, that’s a resource issue that should be addressed, not grounds to delay innocent people from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.


And it should be noted that the vast majority of people who face delays are people who eventually pass the background check outright.

Smith is trying to use the tragedy of Lewiston to push for a bill that wouldn’t have stopped Lewison and moreover, wouldn’t even stop criminals. She admits her ignorance, then pretends to be an authority on how nice and easy the whole background check process is.

Frankly, the whole thing is insulting.

That’s why her bill died and why it needs to die all over again, especially since she keeps talking about “commercial gun sales” without understanding what even the word “commercial” means, apparently.

If this is the best and brightest of the gun control world, I really like our chances.

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