Three-day waiting period for gun purchases proposed


Donna Morin of Hooksett told lawmakers that a proposed three-day waiting period to purchase any firearm would have stopped her 21-year-old son from buying one and then, 30 minutes later, shooting himself to death on Jan. 5, 2022 over the breakup with a girlfriend.

“He never exhibited signs of mental illness … he wasn’t a drug user,” Morin testified Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Nate.

Just before shooting himself in the family’s backyard while he was home alone, Morin said her son called 911 to report his own suicide so that law enforcement, and not his loved ones, would find him first.

“He just wasn’t in his right mind,” said Morin, a mother of three.

Morin said Nate, a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute at the time, had already lined up a job as a mechanical engineer once he graduated and showed no signs of depression.

“A catalyst was a breakup; the girl he loved had just broken up with him days before,” Morin recalled. “Losing her confused him and it broke his heart.”

Gun advocates insisted, however, that despite this and other personal tragedies, there’s no research showing that states adopting these waiting periods led to lower rates of violent crime or suicide.

“There is no evidence that these serve as cooling off periods,” said Justin Davis, state director for the National Rifle Association.

“Criminals do not follow this law; it will not reduce violent crime.”

Sen. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, said her bill (SB 577) is a “suicide prevention” measure and carefully crafted to exempt from the waiting period law enforcement, the military, hunters who complete a hunter safety course and anyone who obtained a temporary restraining order or expressed to police that he or she feared for their lives.

“No one thing alone is going to solve all of our problems,” Altschiller said. “This is a piece of a larger prevention effort.”

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 89% of gun deaths in New Hampshire were due to suicide, well above the 59% national average.

From 2011 to 2020, the rate of gun suicides in New Hampshire increased 61% compared to 11% in the U.S.

Gun rights advocates point out that when it comes to violent crime with guns, New Hampshire remains one of the safest states in the nation.

For two decades, gun control legislation hasn’t gotten any traction at the State House with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoing such efforts in 2019-2020, and over that time GOP-led legislative branches repeatedly rejecting them.

State Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton and secretary of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, said granting a waiting period would be a slippery slope.

“Today there might be a three-day waiting period and tomorrow enlightened lawmakers could decide it should go up to 10 days,” Hoell said.

“We do not want in any way shape or form to go the way of California.”

Eight states have some mandatory wait

Eight states and the District of Columbia have some form of mandatory wait prior to the purchase of all guns according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a pro-gun control advocacy group. Three other states have waiting periods for specific weapons, such as handguns.

Rhode Island has a seven-day wait unless the buyer is a law enforcement officer.

Last year, Vermont adopted a three-day wait for all gun purchases from dealers that do not occur at gun shows.

Both states require the gun seller to give that weapon to a buyer if they do not receive a federal background check that contains disqualifying information.

Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, said there’s cause for celebration that bipartisan support is emerging for a specific change in gun laws (HB 1711), to require New Hampshire to share with the federal criminal background check system the name of anyone who had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

State officials moved to close this loophole after a former patient came to the state’s psychiatric hospital last November and shot to death security officer Bradley Haas.

“We have the right to keep and bear arms, but not to use them to harm or threaten others. Individual rights cannot be absolute,” Meuse said. “To protect public safety, we must avoid creating a society in which anything goes.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the waiting period bill appeared unworkable to her.

Creating a waiting period carve-out for domestic abuse victims could give them less protection because some judges may be reluctant to issue a protection order under those circumstances, Carson said.

Rep. Robert Lynn, R-Windham, said he opposed the entire bill, and questioned why it would give a blanket exception for experienced hunters.

“Are we supposed to believe that hunters are less likely to be affected by mental illness and we don’t have to be worried about them?” Lynn asked rhetorically.

The Senate panel also took testimony on requiring a criminal background check prior to all firearm sales (SB 571), including those at gun shows and private transactions such as giving a gun as a gift.


(c) 2024 The New Hampshire Union Leader

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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