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N.H. Gov. Signs Law Making It Easier To Carry Concealed Guns

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (Charles Krupa/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (Charles Krupa/AP)

A license is no longer required to carry a loaded pistol or revolver under a jacket or in a purse in New Hampshire.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation Wednesday removing the requirement that people get a license from local officials to carry a concealed pistol or revolver.

The National Rifle Association says that makes New Hampshire the 12th state -- including Vermont and Maine -- that doesn’t require a license or permit in most cases.

"This is about making sure that our laws on our books are keeping people safe while remaining true to that ‘live free or die’ spirit that makes New Hampshire the great state that it is," Sununu said before signing the bill. He was flanked by gun rights activists and fellow Republican lawmakers.

New Hampshire’s old law said anyone who wanted to carry their gun concealed had to apply for a license with local police or selectmen who would decide if they were "suitable" for one. That would, for example, give police discretion to say someone who frequently gets in bar fights shouldn’t get a license, even if they’re not barred under state or federal law from owning a gun and carrying it openly.

State laws bars anyone who has a restraining order against them or a felony conviction from possessing a gun. Federal law goes further, also barring anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year, drug users, certain people with mental illness, or someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, among several other categories.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police has raised alarm that taking away their discretion could allow dangerous people to carry a hidden gun.

There’s no statewide record of how many people are denied concealed carry licenses each year.

"We have some concerns, obviously, about the ramifications that could come out of this," said Chief Andrew Shagoury, vice president of the association.

But backers of the bill say those concerns are misplaced and that police have been unfairly denying people licenses.

"The Constitution is very clear, and the chiefs of police need to grow up," said Republican Rep. John Burt. "That’s why they’re mad: They can’t abuse the public anymore."

The new law is a win for Sununu among his conservative base and comes on the heels of a loss on legislation targeting labor unions that failed last week. Burt said gun activists won’t forget Sununu’s commitment to their cause.

“This is huge for him,” Burt said.

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