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No Background Check to Buy a Handgun in NH?

February 23, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. - A state House committee today is expected to release its recommendation about a bill which would repeal the criminal-history and protective-order background check for purchasing a handgun in New Hampshire.

Under current law, says the bill's sole sponsor, Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, if someone attempts to purchase a handgun in New Hampshire, gun dealers call the state's Department of Safety to run a background check - but if it's a rifle or a shotgun, he says, the dealer calls the FBI.

"This bill would make it so that dealers would always call the federal number instead of the state number and save the state three employees, who could be better used elsewhere in the Department of Safety."

Those opposed to repealing the state background check for handgun purchases say the FBI doesn't always receive information from the state regarding felons and people with protective orders against them - and removing the state from the process would allow people to fall through the cracks and could be a public-safety threat.

As a gun dealer, says Ralph Demico, owner of Riley's Sport Shop in Hooksett and vice president of Gun Owners of New Hampshire, he finds background checks with the FBI are faster than those with the state, but he would still prefer the state be kept in the loop.

"We would welcome the state properly funding that section, putting more people on and upgrading their computer system for the public-safety aspect as well as being fast."

If the state were out of the equation, Demico says, it would be very difficult and time consuming for gun purchasers who may have an error on their record to clear it up at the federal level. He says it's much easier to go to Concord to find and remove any mistakes.

The bill, HB 1220, will be voted on by the state House once recommendations are released by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The bill's text is online at gencourt.state.nh.us.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH