Two articles in two local papers provide two takes on the two-to-one vote that defeated “universal background checks” or private sales ban in New Hampshire last week. Depending on whether you read seacoastonline or the unionleader.com, the bill went down to defeat because of confusing parliamentary wrangling (the house is controlled by Democrats 215-177) or because the Democrats wanted the bill to go down, but didn’t want their names attached to its defeat . . .
HB 1589 would have required most private sellers to conduct background checks through federally licensed dealers, using a system already in place for dealer sales.
Breaking the law would have been a misdemeanor charge. An exception would have been made for noncommercial private sales between individuals not prohibited by federal law from buying a gun.The final vote came after a long and confusing debate that lawmakers said left many shaking their heads.
I was a little confused about what a “commercial” private sale would be, so I took a look at the bill.
V. “Transfer” means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person, either with or without consideration of payment or promise of payment, and includes gifts and loans.
159-E:2 Firearms Sales to be Conducted Through a Licensed Dealer.
I. No person shall sell or transfer a firearm unless:
(a) The person is a licensed firearms dealer; or
(b) The purchaser or transferee is a licensed firearms dealer; or
(c) The requirements of paragraph II are met.
II. If neither party to a prospective firearms transaction is a licensed firearms dealer, the parties to the transaction shall complete the sale or transfer through a licensed firearms dealer as follows:
There are exceptions for transfers among immediate family, those done at a range, while hunting or during a competition. I guess everything else is considered a “commercial private sale,” but there might have been an amendment to the bill that wasn’t shown on the legislative web site.
In contrast, Union Leader opined that the bill failed because the Democrats wanted it to fail. They just didn’t want their names attached to the failure. It’s not hard to see why. Consider the attacks on Senator Kelly Ayotte after the she refused to vote for the flawed Manchin-Toomey “universal background check” bill, even though she voted for a version that couldn’t have been used to impose a registration system. From the Union Leader:
Last Wednesday’s House votes on House Bill 1589, to require background checks for almost all guns sales in New Hampshire, revealed that New Hampshire Democrats are divided about the utility of universal background checks. Despite the party’s official bluster about the need for such legislation, House Democrats would not stand up to have the final vote on the bill recorded. Dozens of them wanted to vote against it, but only if they could do so secretly.
Sure, it’s possible for legislators to be confused by parliamentary procedure. And it’s a strength of any leadership to use parliamentary rules to their advantage and to the disadvantage of their opponents. But it seems less likely that those in leadership positions didn’t realize what was happening and were as confused as those who where pushing for a ban on nearly all private sales.
New Hampshire is a gun-friendly state with extremely low rates of homicide. Neighboring states have much more onerous gun laws and higher homicide rates. Homicide is mostly a matter of culture rather than the availability of weapons. My money is on the Union Leader’s take. The Democrat leadership in the New Hampshire House were only too happy to have this whole issue just go away.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.