STATEMENT: Giffords Denounces New Hampshire Legislature For Failing to Advance Law that Could Make New Hampshire Safer  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 2018

CONTACT: Jason Phelps, jphelps@giffords.org

WASHINGTON, DCGiffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, denounced the New Hampshire Senate for blocking a bill prohibiting the use of bump stocks and considering extreme preemption legislation that would preempt communities from and establishing local ordinances and hold local law enforcement personally liable.

The bump stocks bill, SB 492, would have established a misdemeanor offense for the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of a multiburst trigger activator, including bump stocks. Today the New Hampshire Senate voted to refer the bill for interim study, failing to advance the bill in any meaningful way.

In the House, New Hampshire lawmakers held a hearing on a dangerous bill that would preempt local authority over gun laws, and make local officials who pass strong gun safety laws, and local officers carrying them out, personally liable. Giffords was swift in denouncing this dangerous preemption bill, HB 1749.

“New Hampshire lawmakers are failing to protect the safety of their communities,” said Nico Bocour, State Legislative Director of Giffords. “It’s unacceptable that despite the fact that the vast majority of voters agree that bump stocks must be kept out of the hands of dangerous people, the New Hampshire Senate failed to move forward the bump stocks bill. In the House, we’re disappointed to see lawmakers consider the damaging proposal that hinders the ability of local governments to pass public safety laws, while putting police officers at risk for simply doing their job. Keeping communities safe should be the top priority of our elected officials, which is why we’re committed to working with our partners to make sure voters know how damaging these decisions are so that they can hold their elected leaders accountable.”  

“Law enforcement officers are focused on keeping people safe, but the preemption bill would make that job harder,” said John Kacavas, Former US Attorney for New Hampshire and a member of the Giffords New Hampshire Coalition Advisory Committee. “It not only prevents local governments from establishing their own public safety laws that protect communities, it also places an unfair threat of personal liability on officers, threatening their very livelihoods. If this legislation were to pass, it would result in police officers worrying about whether they could get fired for simply following the law. Lawmakers should do the right thing and stop this reckless bill that would only make the public less safe.”

Background on Bump Stocks

In October 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas used multiple bump stock devices to convert semi-automatic rifles into weapons that fired 9 shots per second. It was the deadliest mass shooting attack in modern history. More than a dozen states across the country have begun to take action to pass these dangerous devices. That includes Massachusetts and New Jersey where bills were signed into law by Republican officials with backing from Giffords.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Giffords and SiX Action, an advocacy organization committed to achieving change at the state level, released a state legislative toolkit for addressing bump stocks, that details legislative options for lawmakers who want to take action. States can protect their communities by looking to other legislation that has been enacted or introduced at the state and federal level.

Related Releases:

Information on bump stocks:

  • According to ATF, even when a bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic rifle, the gun is still not a machine gun, since the trigger has to function once for each bullet that leaves the barrel. This means that these deadly devices are not subject to federal registration requirements when they are manufactured or transferred. California law currently bans bump stocks and other devices under its multiburst trigger activators prohibition.
  • Even though they are not regulated like machine guns, bump stocks allow a person to hold a finger steady, and simply “bump” the gun against his or her shoulder back into the trigger. The person does not have to pull the trigger each time.  Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire shots in rapid succession to simulate a fully automatic rate of fire.
  • Bump stocks—specialized rifle stocks that allow shooters to more accurately bump fire rifles without compromising accuracy—are legal to be sold and not regulated by the federal government. The Slide Fire® bump stock, for example, was ruled by ATF in 2010 as an accessory “intended to assist persons whose hands have limited mobility to Bump Fire an AR-15 type rifle” and did not qualify for regulation under the Gun Control Act of 1968 or National Firearms Act.
  • Mass shooters choose guns that allow for rapid-fire because they increase casualties.  For example, the TEC DC-9 assault pistol used to kill eight and wound six in a mass shooting at the Pettit and Martin law firm in San Francisco in 1993 was equipped with a Hellfire trigger activator.

Background on Preemption Laws

Preemption occurs when a higher level of government removes regulatory power from a lower level of government. The higher level of government, such as a state government, can use express language in a statute or constitutional provision to remove a lower government’s authority to regulate firearms. Even when a statute does not prohibit local gun regulation, courts sometimes find that a state has already enacted so many laws in a particular area related to firearms that there is no room for local regulation on the same subject. In addition, a court may find that a local law is preempted by state law if the local law contradicts directly with the state law by requiring what the state law prohibits or prohibiting what the state law requires. When local legislators are prevented from implementing customized solutions to gun violence, public safety suffers. For example, a regulation in a densely populated urban area may not be appropriate in a rural setting, and vice versa. Yet both would be forced to comply with the same statewide gun policy (or lack thereof).

Information on H.B. 1749:

  • This bill could subject law enforcement officers or agencies to liability, personal and otherwise, for attempting to enforce a law that’s later held to violate the preemption statute. The penalties are:
    • Up to $5,000 fine for EACH violation   
    • Termination of employment
  • This bill would make legislators personally liable for taking action they may, in good faith, believe to be outside of the preemption statute.

Read a factsheet from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence on preemption laws