In New Hampshire, gun owners have the following rights and privileges:
- An amendment to the NH State Constitution passed in 1982 specifies that “all persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.”
- Anyone who can legally possess a firearm can carry it either openly or concealed, unless in a location where guns are specifically restricted.
- You do not need a license to purchase a firearm in New Hampshire.
- Firearms do not need to be registered.
- There is no waiting period before finalizing a firearm purchase.
- There is no minimum age for possessing a firearm. However, only a parent, grandparent or legal guardian can transfer a gun to someone under 18.
In New Hampshire, guns are subject to the following restrictions:
- In accordance with federal law, licensed firearm dealers must conduct a background check on anyone who purchases a gun. For handgun sales, these checks are conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Safety. Long gun sale background checks are conducted by the FBI. Both checks are conducted instantly without a waiting period.
- Federal law prohibits the possession of a firearm by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” However, New Hampshire keeps mental health records confidential and does not, therefore, provide them to the national database used to perform background checks.
- It is illegal to possess a firearm in New Hampshire if you have been convicted of a felony or are currently subject to a protection order.
- You can’t bring a firearm into a New Hampshire court, and public school students can’t carry firearms on school grounds. Additional regulations limit the possession of firearms in licensed childcare facilities, foster homes, and prison grounds.
- Firearms dealers in New Hampshire must obtain a local license if they intend to sell handguns.
- Those purchasing firearms must show ID, and nonresidents can’t buy firearms in New Hampshire unless they are eligible to purchase them in their home state.
- It is illegal to transfer ammunition or a handgun to a minor, although there are exceptions. For example, parents and grandparents may legally give a handgun to a minor relative.
- An individual may be charged with “negligent storage of firearms” if a child gains access to that individual’s firearm and uses the firearm in “a reckless or threatening manner.”
- It is illegal to use Teflon-coated or armor-piercing ammunition in the course of committing a crime.
- You cannot discharge a firearm within 300 feet of a permanently occupied dwelling without the landowner’s permission.
Areas of Contention
Concealed Carry Licensing
On February 22, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law that allows anyone not otherwise prohibited by law to carry a concealed firearm to do so without a license. Gun rights advocates argue that people with the right to own a handgun should also have the right to carry it in the manner of their choosing. Those opposed to the change hold that it is important for local law enforcement to know who might be carrying a concealed weapon through a licensing process.
In accordance with federal law, anyone purchasing a gun in NH must pass a background check. However, this regulation does not apply to guns purchased at gun shows from private individuals, defined as those for whom selling firearms does not constitute a primary source of income. This has raised concerns that domestic abusers, the mentally unstable, or others who would normally fail a background check could acquire firearms through such sales. Others counter that legislation aimed at closing this loophole could be over-broad, and cause innocent activities such as loaning guns or transferring them between family members to become criminal acts.
A federal ban on private ownership of semi-automatic firearms classified as “assault weapons” expired in September 2004. The use of such weapons in high-profile shooting incidents, such as the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, has made them a particular area of concern for gun control advocates, but gun rights campaigners counter that the federal ban did not result in a reduction in crime rates. Several states have passed laws specifically banning assault weapons, and there have been efforts to renew the ban at the federal level.