NH Senate Passes Gun Control Legislation

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Concord, NH (CNSNews.com) - By a vote of 13 to 11, the Democratically controlled New Hampshire State Senate on Thursday passed a gun control measure involving children and the use of loaded firearms. The legislation makes it a crime to negligently store a firearm making it possible for a minor to get the weapon. For the law to apply, the weapon would have to be loaded.

For each violation, an individual could receive a year in jail and face a $1,000 fine.

"The guiding principle behind this legislation is that with all freedom comes responsibility and with the ownership of a weapon come special responsibility," said State Senator Burt Cohen, a Democrat, who sponsored the bill.

The bi-partisan measure was also supported by State Senator Patricia Krueger, a Manchester Republican and a long time foe of gun control legislation, who said following her vote, "Enough is enough."

In explaining her decision, Krueger insisted she changed her mind following the recent shooting of a six-year old girl in a Michigan school. The shooter was a six-year old male classmate. "It clicked something in my head. This is child protection."

According to the bill, the law would not apply in the following circumstances: if the weapon had been stolen, kept in a locked box, gun safely stores in another place believed to be secure, or if the weapon had been secured with a trigger lock to keep it from being fired.

The law would also not apply if the weapon had been illegally taken without permission of the owner; if the gun owner was carrying it or was close enough to the weapon to get it back; if the child used the weapon to either defend himself or another person, and if the owner had "no reasonable expectation, based on objective facts and circumstances, that a child was likely to be present on the premises."

The proposed bill also requires the posting of warning notices in gun stores. Should a child gain access to a weapon purchased at a gun shop which had not posted the required notice, and should the child improperly use the weapon, the gun shop owner could face prosecution.

Those exceptions had some opponents arguing the legislation left too much for interpretation, including State Senator Gary Francoeur, who insisted some people might believe their home was secure but might still be charged under the legislation. "What is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another," he said.

In the event the weapon's accessibility to a child injures a parent or guardian, the adults would not face prosecution unless they were "grossly negligent."

The bill still must be heard in the House of Representatives.

It is not yet clear what action Governor Jeanne Shaheen would take should the Senate join the House in approving the bill.