It is possible to respect the Second Amendment and meaningfully reduce gun violence; indeed, we have a responsibility to do so. Here's the reality: The overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible in their storage and usage of firearms. For our elected officials - regardless of party - the job is to build an overwhelming coalition of residents, whether they own firearms or not, who seek ways to meaningfully reduce gun violence that are consistent with protecting our Second Amendment rights. In New Hampshire, most gun deaths are by suicide, and most other gun violence emanates from those with a record of violence or instability. Here are four ways to meaningfully reduce the threat of violence in those two specific areas.
1. Universal Background Checks
Currently, background checks are required only for licensed dealers for handguns and long guns; private sales are not subject to background checks at either the state or federal level. We should require background checks for all transfers of firearms, including private transfers. In addition, New Hampshire should assure that its background check includes those who commit domestic violence, hate crimes, and those with a demonstrated history of harming themselves.
2. Red Flag Laws
In a number of states, mental illness, escalating threats, substance abuse and domestic violence, are some of the circumstances under which a judge can order weapons restrictions. Family members, guardians, and law enforcement officials may ask the courts for such a temporary restriction where warning signs of violence are present.
3. 48-Hour Waiting Period
Particularly in the area of gun-related suicide, states which have instituted a short-term waiting period before a firearm can be transferred have seen meaningful decreases in such suicide attempts. Almost two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S. are due to suicide (and about 93% of NH gun deaths) largely because of the lethal nature of firearms. Data show that 90% of suicide attempts involving a discharged firearm lead to death; in contrast, only 2% of drug-related suicide attempts lead to death. In states with such waiting periods, there are 51% fewer gun-related suicides, and 27% fewer suicides, overall. It also allows comprehensive background checks to take place in a more consistent, orderly, reliable fashion.
4. Licensing for Concealed-Carry
The first bill that Governor Sununu signed in early 2017 repealed the permitting process through local police chiefs in order to carry a concealed gun. Although very few requests for the concealed-carry license were denied, it provided an important layer of background checks at the local level, and it should be restored. Governor Sununu said that police chiefs opposed the elimination of the permitting process because it reduced their authority to “arbitrarily” decline the license. This is false; during testimony on this bill in early 2017, police chiefs testified that it was rare for a license to be denied.