- Associated Press - Thursday, April 4, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire House passed a bill Thursday to limit carrying guns on school property over the objection of opponents who argued doing so would lead to a mass shooting.

The bill, approved by a vote of 213-159, would restrict carrying firearms on school property to law enforcement, members of the military and those authorized by the local school board. Parents and others who legally have guns can still have them in their cars when they are dropping off or picking up their children.

Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, said nothing can make schools completely safe, but said passing the bill would “send the message that we’re willing to do something to protect our kids other than sending them our thoughts and prayers.”

“Would it place some sort of protective zone of invulnerability around our kids if we pass it? The answer is no, it won’t,” he said. “What this bill will do is offer one small, rational, realistic and helpful thing we can do together to minimize the risk of the unthinkable happening in our state.”

The bill, passed by a Democrat-controlled House, would apply to school buildings, buses and grounds.

Opponents argued it would target someone who brings a gun to an outdoor event held when school wasn’t in session, such as a summer fireworks display. They also argued the bill would criminalize the behavior of otherwise law-abiding citizens and would embolden would-be school shooters because they would know teachers wouldn’t be trying to stop them.

“We currently have teachers that carry. I do not want to strip them of that option, because the crazy person out there that’s going to commit these crimes is unaware of which teachers are carrying. That keeps our kids safe,” said Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown. “I hope everyone really realizes that if this passes, and I pray I’m wrong … but there’s gonna be a school shooting, and we’re gonna have to think about what we’ve done here when there’s dead teachers and dead students.”

Rep. Jody McNally, R-Rochester, also spoke against the bill, saying she kept a gun in her desk drawer when she taught elementary school.

“When they’re in my classroom, they’re my kids, just like my own flesh and blood, and I’m not going to wait for the cops to show up to defend them,” she said.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, was one of several gun-control measures backed this session by Democrats, who now control both chambers of the Legislature.

The House earlier passed a bill requiring a seven-day waiting period before the purchase of a gun, though its House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee retained a bill that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to seek a court order restricting gun access to those posing an immediate risk to themselves or public safety.

Some lawmakers pointed to the retention of the so-called “red-flag” legislation to oppose another bill the House took up on Thursday, but that one ultimately passed. It would establish a system to allow elderly residents and other vulnerable adults to seek protective orders against those accused of abuse, exploitation or neglect. Opponents argued the bill would allow someone’s weapons to be seized without due process, but supporters said it was modeled after domestic violence laws that have worked well for decades.

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