It’s a perennial question: do cities have the right to pass gun control laws that contradict those of the state?
A growing number of state legislatures are saying, “No,” and adding hefty penalties for those that do. Now it looks like New Hampshire is set to join them.
A new bill would allow fines of up to $5,000 to be levied against town or city officials who try to push local ordinances that oppose state laws, according to the Boston Herald.
The bill mentions two instances, though proponents say there are many more. In the first, the town of Milford banned target shooting on a 270-acre piece of town-owned land that residents had been using to practice their marksmanship. Despite the fact that no one had ever been injured on the land, city officials deemed it too dangerous for residents to continue shooting there.
In the second instance, the Lebanon School Board prohibited firearms on school property or at school events on non-school property.
Both actions are clear violations of the law, proponents of the bill say, because New Hampshire is not a “home rule” state, meaning that state law always preempts local law.
One of those proponents and the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. J.R. Hoell, says an increasing number of local officials are thumbing their nose at state policies.
“It seems to be getting worse,” Hoell told the Boston Herald, adding, “How would you feel if all of a sudden Lebanon said the First Amendment doesn’t apply? We don’t do this with any other Constitutional right.”
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“We have elected officials breaking the law because there are no penalties. This bill corrects that by adding penalties, like we would for any other law,” Hoell continued. “If we’re going to put laws on the books, we expect them to be obeyed. If there are penalties for citizens, there should be penalties for elected officials.”
The New Hampshire legislature is controlled by Republicans, so Hoell’s measure has a good chance of passing. But that hasn’t stopped anti-gun legislators from pursuing their own agenda.
Democratic state Rep. Delmar Burridge is pushing for more gun restrictions at the state level, dismissing his Republican colleagues as “Pistol Pete” vigilantes and “goofy knuckleheads” who think the other side is always out to take their guns away.
“They think they’re better shots than the cops are. I call these guys ‘Walter Mitty’ iterations — they think they’re heroes,” Burridge told the Herald.
He’s got his work cut out for him. New Hampshire has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, most recently becoming a “constitutional carry” state by removing all restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm.