Around New England

Live Free Or Not: NH GOP Lawmakers Threaten Lawsuit Over House “Deadly Weapons” Ban

February 1, 2019

The right to keep and bear arms in the New Hampshire House has been limited a bit after the Democrat-controlled legislature recently passed Rule 63. That rule now bans legislators, and anyone else except active police and security personnel, from carrying “deadly weapons” such as hand guns in the “House Chamber, anterooms, cloakrooms, or House gallery.” The ban, however, is a reinstatement of an old rule that had been overturned in 2015 when the Republicans controlled the House.

As a consequence of the newly-reinstated ban, Republican legislators have considered a lawsuit and presented a draft of it to NH House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D); they contend that Rule 63 violates the 2nd-Amendment rights of gun-owning legislators and the visiting public.

NH law allows citizens to carry pistols and revolvers, visibly or concealed, without needing permits.

In response to concerns that the rule is unconstitutional, Shurtleff, according to WMUR, said the US Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which gun rights were upheld, did not overturn a governmental body’s power to restrict weapons on public property.

“I think the court was very specific in the Heller decision that certain places have the right to keep firearms out, and I believe the House chamber is one of those places,” Shurtleff reportedly said.

According to WMUR, Republican lawmakers are hoping Shurtleff will make “some kind of compromise” with them to avoid their lawsuit. WMUR reports that such a deal “doesn’t sound likely.” There was no immediate news about what sort of compromise was sought.

Asked whether he’d enforce the ban should a member be found in the House with a gun, Shurtleff told WMUR that he would.

“There may be a motion to ask the member to leave the chamber until they bring themselves into order before they come back,” he said to WMUR. “That would be the minimum.”

Dan Hynes, an attorney and former House member who lost a bid for state senate last fall, spoke to WMUR about Shurtleff’s enforcement of the new rule, which could lead to “arrest and expulsion” of a House member:

“We hope it doesn’t get that far. There are brave reps who will continue to carry, because their life is more important to them than being expelled,” Hynes said.

According to WMUR, the GOP lawmakers behind the lawsuit will give Shurtleff time to consider their request for a compromise before filing their suit in Merrimack County Court later this month.

Rule 63,  posted on the NH General Court’s website, reads as follows: 

“63. Deadly weapons; electronic devices; cameras. No person, including members of the House, except law enforcement officers while actively engaged in carrying out their duties as such, shall carry or have in possession any deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V while in the House Chamber, anterooms, cloakrooms, or House gallery. Any person in violation of this rule shall be subject to ejection from any such premises on the order of the Speaker and disciplinary action or arrest or both by action of the House. Nothing in this rule shall indicate that the security officer appointed by the House under Rule 61 has the right to stop and search a member of the House on the premises of the House. With the exception of devices for the hearing impaired, no member shall operate audible electronic transmitting and/or receiving devices nor shall any member operate a video camera or a camera utilizing flash bulbs on the floor of the House, while the House is in session.”

 

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