NH House kills gun background check bill

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales and transfers to include gun shows, the Internet and flea markets was killed by the state’s House of Representatives on Wednesday.

A closely divided House debated the issue for two hours - at one point voting to study the matter rather than impose the background checks - but later voted 242-118 to kill the bill after supporters tried to postpone final action in a bid to either salvage the checks or change the study’s focus.

The bill would have required most private sellers would to conduct background checks through federally licensed dealers, using a system already in place for dealer sales.

Breaking the law would have been a misdemeanor charge. An exception would have been made for noncommercial private sales between individuals not prohibited by federal law from buying a gun.

Supporters argued it would protect citizens, but opponents said it infringed on gun rights.

Rep. Richard Meaney, R-Goffstown, said the bill would erode New Hampshire gun owners’ Second Amendment rights slowly, likening it to death by a thousand cuts.

“This is attempting to remove a legal and affordable means of obtaining firearms,” he said.

But Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton, said lawmakers owe it to citizens to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.

“This sends a message to the state and the country that New Hampshire not only respects the rights of law abiding citizens to own a firearm, but that we take seriously the responsibility that comes along with it,” said Muns.

Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, and Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the December 2012 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, had testified last month in support of the bill.

Federal law bars gun purchases by people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility and those declared mentally ill by a judge. It also prohibits gun sales to felons, fugitives, drug addicts, people under domestic violence retraining orders and those convicted of certain misdemeanor domestic violence crimes.

More than 30 states report names of people judged mentally ill to the government, but New Hampshire is not one of them. The legislation would only alert a dealer if someone was in the federal background check system due to a report from another state.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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