Politics & Policy

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Three Gun-Control Bills

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu in Providence, R.I., July 13, 2017. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
A popular Republican governor faces a test from state Democrats.

New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu vetoed three gun-control bills on Friday: one establishing a three-day waiting period for those wishing to purchase a gun, a second prohibiting carrying a gun on school property, and a third requiring background checks on many private firearm sales.

“These three bills would not solve our national issues nor would they prevent evil individuals from doing harm, but they would further restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding New Hampshire citizens,” Sununu said in his veto message. “The New Hampshire Constitution states ‘All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.’ This language provides what many believe to be more expansive legal protections for gun ownership than the second amendment to the United States Constitution.”

New Hampshire Republicans are accusing the Democratic leader of the state senate of playing politics with the timing of the legislation: The bills passed the state senate in May and the state house in June, but the state’s Democratic senate president, Donna Soucy, did not officially send them to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto until after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton occurred.

New Hampshire GOP spokesman Joe Sweeney “said the three gun bills ‘lingered’ on the Democratic leaders’ desks since June 27 while 150 other bills were sent to the governor. He accused them . . . of a ‘shameful and disgusting exploitation of a national tragedy,’” WMUR reported on Thursday.

Democratic House leader Steve Shurtleff responded in a letter, saying, “I have signed all the bills I receive as quickly as I am able and to insinuate that we could predict two mass murders and hold these bills until they happen is preposterous.”

But New Hampshire senate leader Soucy “made it clear her timing was related to the El Paso and Dayton shootings two days earlier,” according to WMUR.

“Thoughts and prayers have never been enough,” Soucy said in her statement. “In memory and honor of more than 30 people killed by gun violence this weekend, today I signed a package of gun violence prevention bills and delivered them to Gov. Sununu for his consideration.”

New Hampshire Public Radio reported last month that Sununu has already vetoed a record number of bills for a New Hampshire governor in a single year. In 2018, New Hampshire’s senate and house flipped from Republican to Democratic control, but Sununu won his second two-year term by a seven-point margin, a five-point improvement over his 2016 election. (Sununu is the son of former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu and younger brother of former New Hampshire U.S. senator John E. Sununu.)

So far in 2019, New Hampshire voters have been pleased with Sununu’s job performance pushing back against the Democratic legislature. A Morning Consult poll published in July found that Sununu, with an approval rating at 65 percent, is the third most popular governor in America.

Sununu’s popularity is partly attributable to the fact that he is very accessible. “I give my cell phone [number] to everybody,” Sununu told National Review last week. “People are actually very respectful of it. Very rarely do I have people who are constantly calling me.” Given the intensity of support for gun control among Democrats at the moment, this could be an unusual weekend when Sununu’s phone doesn’t stop ringing.

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