The Bulletin Board

Sununu: ‘Drastic changes’ to state’s firearm safety laws ‘nothing I support’

By: - April 30, 2021 12:59 pm
A man looks at rifles at a gun shop

President Joe Biden’s orders include directing the Justice Department to propose rules restricting the sale of “ghost guns,” which are often assembled at homes with kits and without traceable serial numbers. (Getty Images)

A bill prohibiting the state from enforcing any federal executive orders restricting access to guns is likely headed to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. The question is: Would he sign it?

Asked about his position Thursday, Sununu cited New Hampshire’s own record on guns.

“It doesn’t mean we’re immune and couldn’t have a very tragic situation at any moment,” he said. “But overall, with firearm safety in the country, we do very, very well, and I’ve never proposed any drastic changes.”

Presidential executive orders, like those issued by President Joe Biden on April 7, “could be” a drastic change, he said. “That’s nothing I support. I think we have a system that does that really, really well.”

Biden’s orders include directing the Justice Department to propose rules restricting the sale of “ghost guns,” which are often assembled at homes with kits and without traceable serial numbers. He’s also asked for model “red flag” legislation for states to allow family members and law enforcement to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing guns.

The bill, Senate Bill 154, has passed the Senate and House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. It’s likely to get a warm reception from House Republicans, who have prioritized blocking Sununu from issuing his own COVID-19-related executive orders.

Gun bills always generate significant debate in New Hampshire. (Another hearing Thursday on SB 141, which proposes the federal government take over all the state’s firearm background checks, was scheduled to run about two hours. It ran nearly four.)

The debate over the bill blocking Biden’s executive orders was no exception.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense New Hampshire, a project of Granite State Progress, told House committee members it would “cost lives” and put Granite Staters in perpetual fear.

“We should all be able to agree,” she said, “that our families shouldn’t have to live in fear of going to the grocery store or to work or to school or to the movie theater or to a health clinic or a bowling alley or walk down the street in our community, or play in the park or live in our homes, because dangerous individuals can easily access firearms and shoot and kill our families.”

Several gun-rights groups not only testified in support of the bill but asked the committee to expand it to prevent the state from also enforcing federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives rules and attempts to regulate guns in New Hampshire. The committee did, but the amended version is not yet on the General Court’s website.

“A number of us are legitimately scared to death about how aggressive federal elected officials and departments are going to be in going after our Second Amendment rights,” said JR Hoell, of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

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