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January 3, 2013

NH House reinstates gun ban in chamber

Democrat-controlled House reinstates 40-year-old ban

There were plenty of verbal shots fired in Concord yesterday as the House of Representatives voted to reinstate a 40-year-old ban on weapons in the House chamber.

The 196-153 vote came after several hours of debate on what has become a contentious issue between Democrats and Republicans. The ban only applies to the House floor, anteroom and gallery, allowing lawmakers and the public to carry guns in other areas of the Statehouse complex.

Democrats supported the ban while Republicans were largely opposed, including many Southern New Hampshire lawmakers.

Reps. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, and Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, called it an attack on constitutional rights, but said it wasn’t a surprise after Democrats vowed to adopt a ban when they took control of the House in November.

The deadly attack Dec. 14 on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., spurred further discussion of a need to ban firearms at the Statehouse.

Some Democrats said the fatal shootings of 20 children and six adults by 20-year-old former Kingston resident Adam Lanza was reason enough to ban guns from public places, including the Statehouse.

Two years ago, Republicans reversed the ban in place at the Statehouse complex when they took control of the House. The vote yesterday came two weeks after the House Rules Committee recommended the ban in a 6-4 vote along party lines.

Sapareto and Baldasaro said the move jeopardizes public safety.

“You just announced to the rest of the world, ‘Come, here, we are open targets,’” Sapareto said.

“Because now, we can’t defend ourselves.”

Sapareto said the ban violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He criticized Democratic first-time lawmakers who supported the ban.

The House debated the rule change and numerous amendments for much of the day before approving the ban late yesterday afternoon.

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