Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer
The University of New Hampshire will be immune to the ramifications of a newly proposed piece of gun-related legislation if passed.
Senate Bill 116, which was proposed at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, would allow New Hampshire citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Since 1923, New Hampshire state regulations have required a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon.
However, if this legislation were to be hypothetically passed and signed into law, UNH policy would continue to prevent it from being applicable to students, according to UNH Chief of Police and Executive Director of Safety, Paul Dean.
“With the exception of law enforcement officers, the policy prohibits the use and possession of all firearms, other dangerous weapons intended to inflict injury, or explosives on the Concord, Durham and Manchester core campuses,” he explained. “The policy provides for storage of firearms and special permissions to possess weapons. The policy further provides that ‘[any] person violating this policy will be subject to appropriate legal and administrative action, provisions of state laws and be subjected to sanctions under applicable process for just cause.’”
The UNH housing agreement also forbids firearms and weapons in the residence halls and dormitories, Dean added.
“With our current policy in place, UNH won’t need to weigh in on the proposed bill,” Dean said.
Although UNH might not need to take a stand on the legislation, others around the state are voicing their opinions.
On Jan. 29, a hearing for the bill took place in the House Chambers and members of the public who were either for or against the legislation were able to voice their concerns. The entire hearing lasted more than four hours with a variety of people voicing their opinions.
“This is an emotional topic, let’s be honest,” said Merrimack Rep. J.R. Hoell, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Some people like guns, some people don’t. I understand that. But for some people, some small percentage of society, they’re concerned about seeing a firearm. It actually gets them nervous. And you know what, concealed carry doesn’t do that. There may be people in these rooms actually carrying firearms and nobody is nervous about it … that allows for the peaceful society we’re interested in having.”
Others held different views, particularly the law enforcement officers who attended the hearing.
Andrew Shagoury, the chief of police in Tuftonboro, was there to represent the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. He and the rest of the members in the association opposed the bill believing primarily that it gives minors more access to loaded weapons without any legal consequences.
Shagoury also pointed out many other states, such as Maine, Wyoming and Arizona, which have stricter laws on guns, have either equal or lower crime rates than Vermont, which does not require a permit for carrying a concealed weapon.
Shagoury was firm in his beliefs, which he felt represented those of others in his position.
“I can’t say we’ve talked to everyone within the association. There may be some that have different opinions, some may not have read it closely. But I think from those I’ve talked to, it’s been uniform opposition,” he said during his testimony. “I’ve been a chief for 16 years, but a lot of other chiefs have rotated and leadership has changed. But consistently over those years, we’ve opposed a legislation that appeals to a rather lenient law on what [is needed] to get a concealed-to-carry license.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan agrees with this sort of thinking, confirmed her Press Secretary William Hinkle.
Hinkle did not say, however, if Hassan would veto the bill if it were passed and presented to her for signing.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said that his inspiration behind sponsoring the legislation was simple.
“I just felt that as majority leader, I should introduce this bill,” Bradley said. “It’s a good bill, it protects constitutional rights… I think it will also serve to make New Hampshire a safer state.”
When drafting the bill, Bradley said his main supporting evidence was the impact he’s seen this have on New Hampshire’s neighboring state Vermont.
According to Bradley, Vermont adopted this law from the get-go, and in that time has become one of the safest states in the nation.
This statement was found to be true based on a report published on Jan. 2, 2015 by 24/7 Wall St., a digital financial news organization based out of Delaware. According to the report, New Hampshire is ranked as the sixth safest state in the country. The report took violent crime rates per 100,000 people, population, the number of 2013 murders, poverty rate and the percect of adults with a high school diploma into consideration when creating the list of safest states.
Bradley plans to stand by his legislation and says he is confident that it will be passed.
The bill is currently in the state’s Judiciary Committee and has not yet been put to a vote by either the House or the Senate. According to the bill’s docket on the general court’s website, it is due out of the committee by Thursday, Feb. 12.
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