EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

September 15, 2011

Veto override expands NH deadly force law

Local police are concerned public safety could be at risk after lawmakers voted yesterday to override the governor's veto of a bill that allows people to use deadly force in public places.

The New Hampshire House voted, 251-111, to overturn the veto of Senate Bill 88 a week after the state Senate did the same.

Members of the Republican-dominated House praised the move, saying it gives New Hampshire residents the right to adequately protect themselves.

The previous law only allowed people to use a gun or other weapon to defend themselves in their own homes. The new law, which takes effect in 60 days, allows deadly force anywhere.

That's why police are worried.

"It could certainly lead to some unfortunate results," Kingston police Chief Donald Briggs said. "I have some concerns with the law."

Briggs and other police officials said people who feel threatened are more likely to take action, even if that means firing a gun in a crowded public place. Police throughout New Hampshire have vehemently opposed the bill. "People do things in the heat of the moment that they later wish they hadn't done," Briggs said.

Pelham police Lt. Gary Fisher also disagrees with the new law.

"I am surprised it was overridden and I think it's a little extreme," he said.

Fisher said he didn't think enough lawmakers would step forward to support an override. A two-thirds vote was needed.

He said the new law is open to too much interpretation on what is allowed and how the measure should be enforced. The current law was fine, Fisher said.

Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas said he is also concerned about public safety and what could happen in a dangerous situation.

"There are a lot of issues that surround this that make it bad legislation and make it bad law," he said. "If people use common sense, this wouldn't be as bad as it could be. And, hopefully, people will use common sense."

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