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NH House approves allowing guns on campus

By Norma Love
Associated Press / January 4, 2012
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CONCORD, N.H.—Ignoring a threatened veto, New Hampshire's House voted Wednesday to strip colleges of their right to prohibit guns on their campuses.

The Republican-controlled House voted 180-144 to send the bill to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain

The bill would end colleges' ability to prohibit guns on campuses, including in classrooms. The bill would give the Legislature authority to regulate guns on any public land or in publicly owned or financed buildings, except the courts.

Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said Tuesday he would veto the bill if it reaches his desk. He said the bill could mean private companies leasing state-owned office space at Pease International Tradeport would not be able to bar people from bringing weapons into their businesses.

Pease is an industrial and business park with locations in Newington and in Portsmouth.

Opponents argued Wednesday that allowing guns on campuses, in classrooms and in state-owned buildings is dangerous.

State Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, said the bill would mean people could bring guns into the Verizon Wireless Arena and Fisher Cats baseball stadium in Manchester. The arena is the site of concerts, hockey games and other events.

"Imagine if there is a hip-hop concert at the Verizon arena," he said.

State Rep. Rick Watrous, D-Concord, said he teaches at a community college and teachers don't want to deal with students carrying guns.

"We have enough classroom management issues without wondering if our students are armed and dangerous," he said.

But supporters said students have every right to carry guns to protect themselves.

State Rep. Mark Warden, R-Goffstown, called it a commonsense bill that will eliminate inconsistency in how guns are regulated. Warden also said it was a move in the right direction to allow students to carry guns on college campuses.

The House has yet to vote on two other gun bills that Lynch also promised to veto. One would eliminate the need for a license to carry concealed, loaded weapons anyplace where gun possession is legal. It also would increase from four to five years the length of time a permit is valid. The bill also would make it legal to transport unlicensed guns.

The House passed a similar bill last session, but the Senate postponed action on it until this year. Neither the latest House bill nor the one passed last year would relax federal prohibitions such as banning felons from carrying weapons. Vermont, Arizona and Alaska don't require a permit.

The second bill would loosen a 74-year-old ban on loaded rifles and shotguns in vehicles. Weapons inside vehicles would be allowed to contain clips of ammunition as along as no bullets were loaded into the firing chamber.

The House could vote on them as early as Thursday.

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