New Hampshire Gun Law: F.A.Qs

Contents

(Note: The following FAQs About New Hampshire Gun Law below is an overview of New Hampshire’s gun and knife laws. It is not intended as legal advice. Contact a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.)

Are guns registered in New Hampshire?

No. New Hampshire does not invade your privacy and track your possession of firearms. New Hampshire law respects your right to possess guns without the government looking over your shoulder. Additionally, if you move into New Hampshire from another state, you need not notify anyone that you own guns. There is a well-known maxim in the gun rights movement: “legislation – registration – confiscation – extermination.”

What is required to buy a handgun from a licensed gun dealer in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire does not require a license or permit to buy a handgun. One must be a resident, at least 21 years old, and not a “prohibited person.” Examples of disqualifiers include felony convictions, misdemeanor “crimes of domestic violence,” active domestic violence restraining orders, dishonorable military discharges, and involuntary mental health commitments. The licensed dealer will conduct a NICS (instant background) check by telephone to verify that you are not a “prohibited person.” The background check for handguns is conducted by the State of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has no waiting period for the purchase of firearms.

What is required to buy a rifle or shotgun from a licensed gun dealer in New Hampshire?

The same as above, except you must be least 18 years old instead of 21 years old. The background check for long arms is conducted by the federal government. New Hampshire has no waiting period for the purchase of firearms. A non-resident may purchase a rifle or shotgun as long as the licensed dealer follows the law of both the home state and New Hampshire. Sales to non-residents are only allowed to be made by a licensed dealer.

What is required to buy a handgun in a private sale in New Hampshire?

Private sales of a handgun may only be made by a New Hampshire resident to another New Hampshire resident who is either personally known to the seller or who has a New Hampshire license to carry a pistol or revolver. Handgun sales are not permitted to prohibited persons or to non-residents.

What is required to buy a rifle or shotgun in a private sale in New Hampshire?

No license is required to purchase a rifle or shotgun in a private sale in New Hampshire. However, sales must be done only between residents and no sales are permitted to prohibited persons.

What is required to carry a handgun openly in New Hampshire?

Open carry of a loaded handgun is allowed without any license or permit. Some law enforcement officers in cities and towns may not be aware of this, and you may face a law enforcement inquiry or even arrest. However, no law in New Hampshire prohibits open carry, and the NH Attorney General’s office has declared that a person’s “annoyance or alarm” (wording taken from the state law on disorderly conduct, RSA 644:2) on observing otherwise lawful open carry does not supersede the right to carry openly.

On the one hand, rights should be exercised to keep them from being lost, and so occasionally reminding the public by example that open carry is legal can have its benefit — but on the other hand, public hysteria and outcry could result in restrictive legislation. Mature judgment and discretion should guide the decision of where and when to carry openly.

Open carry is of primary benefit to hunters and outdoorsmen who carry a “working” handgun. Also note that carrying openly forfeits a tactical advantage in a self-defense situation when confronted with an armed assailant. For example, not only do you lose the element of surprise, but you also face potential handgun retention problems should an assailant attempt to grab your openly carried handgun from its holster. Additionally, an open carrier, figuratively speaking, might be wearing a “shoot me first” sign.

What is required to carry a concealed handgun in New Hampshire?

To carry a loaded, concealed handgun in New Hampshire, one must first obtain a New Hampshire License to Carry [RSA 159:6]; the paper document itself is titled “Pistol/Revolver License.” (No license is required to carry concealed in your home or place of business, however.) Residents may obtain this license from their town of residence, at a cost of ten dollars; usually, the town or city police issue them, although state law allows town selectmen and city mayors to do so. Non-residents may obtain it from the State Department of Safety, at a cost of twenty dollars.

You must be a “suitable person.” Licenses are issued for a minimum of four years, and have no restrictions such as “target and hunting only.” The license is a “shall issue” license with a one-page application form in which no fingerprints or photographs are required, and a decision approving or denying the license must be made within fourteen days of application; if you are denied, you get priority in the court schedule for appeal, where the issuing authority must show “by clear and convincing proof” why the denial was justified [RSA 159:6-c].

What should I be aware of when applying for a License to Carry?

Although most police departments in New Hampshire strictly follow the law (RSA 159:6), some may not always make the 14-day deadline for issuing (or denying) the license, and a few may even improperly attempt to impose extra requirements in the application process. If there is any concern about the 14-day deadline, one should document the date the application form is submitted, for example by sending it in by certified mail.

The state law that governs the License to Carry, RSA 159:6, states that “no other forms [other than the standard one-page application form] may be used”; this dictates, among other things, that there is no requirement that the three persons listed as references on the form must write letters to the police. Also, most police departments issue licenses that expire four years from the date of issuance, but RSA 159:6 says that “when required, license renewal shall take place within the month of the fourth anniversary of the license holder’s date of birth following the date of issuance”; if you “require” it in writing (which should include a quotation of this part of the law), the police will often have the license expire four years from your next birthday. Note that if a police department refuses to comply with licensing law, they may be liable for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in challenging the denial.

What if I have a License to Carry and move to another town?

By state law [RSA 159:6-b], you must give written notification to the issuing authority (police or town selectmen) in your new town or city that you have a current License to Carry. That license will remain valid until it expires, but you are free to apply for a new license if you want.

Is my concealed carry license from another state valid in New Hampshire?

Non-residents visiting New Hampshire with a valid concealed carry license or permit issued by their state of residence may carry concealed only if the issuing state is one with which New Hampshire has “reciprocity”; at this time (Warning: the list changes frequently) the list of such states is: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas (Law Enforcement Officers only), Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. (See the New Hampshire State Police website for current updates: www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/ssb/permitslicensing/plupr.html .)

Is my New Hampshire License to Carry valid in other states?

A New Hampshire License to Carry is honored by those states with which New Hampshire has a reciprocity agreement, and the laws and restrictions of that state must be obeyed. See the previous question for a list of such states.

How can one legally have guns in a vehicle?

When driving within New Hampshire, a License to Carry is required to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle, whether the handgun is carried concealed on the person, stored concealed within the vehicle, or arguably within plain sight in the vehicle [RSA 159:4]. Rifles and shotguns may not be loaded when in a vehicle, whether the vehicle is moving or not [RSA 207:7]. No license or permit is required to have or transport unloaded firearms in a vehicle within the state, and there is no requirement for guns in a vehicle to be in a locked container, hidden from view, or in plain sight.

Does New Hampshire restrict possession of semi-automatic so-called “assault” firearms?

No. New Hampshire law does not define or prohibit so-called “assault” firearms. It should be noted that “assault firearm” and “assault weapon” are purely political terms, whereby politicians arbitrarily create categories or lists of guns that they somehow feel are intrinsically evil. The state of New Hampshire makes no such silly and arbitrary distinctions among rifles, shotguns or handguns.

Does New Hampshire restrict possession of so-called “large- or high-capacity” magazines?

No. New Hampshire law does not define or prohibit so-called “large- or high-capacity” magazines. It should be noted that these, too, are purely political terms, arbitrarily created by politicians with an anti-gun-rights agenda. How many bullets is your life worth? Why should a 10-round magazine be legal, but an 11-round magazine be prohibited? Inanimate objects do not commit crimes, criminals do.

Are machine guns and silencers legal to possess in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire does not prohibit possession of machine guns or “silencers” (sound suppressors) by qualified law-abiding citizens. Federal law, however, strictly regulates this area of firearm law, and all federal laws must be obeyed. This includes getting proper federal approval under the National Firearms Act for purchase and possession, including permission from your local chief law enforcement officer.

Where is it illegal to carry a gun even with a New Hampshire License to Carry?

New Hampshire state law prohibits firearms (“or any other deadly weapon”) in courthouses [RSA 159:19]. Additionally, New Hampshire state law prohibits having loaded rifles and shotguns when in a vehicle, whether the vehicle is moving or not [RSA 207:7] Federal law makes it illegal to carry guns in federal “facilities” (buildings, or parts of buildings dedicated to federal activities), including post offices [18 U.S.C. 930], or within 1,000 feet of the property line of a primary or secondary school, whether public or private [18 U.S.C. 922(q)]. The Federal “Gun Free School Zones” law makes an exception for private property (for example, a home across the street from a school), and for unloaded guns in locked containers or gun racks. Both Federal laws are controversial and have untested exceptions, and in particular the Gun Free School Zones law has raised a number of legal issues affecting its enforcement.

Where is it illegal to shoot?

Per state law (RSAs 207:3-a and 207:3-c), you may not shoot across or within 15 feet of a road, or “within 300 feet of a permanently occupied dwelling without permission of the owner or the occupant of the dwelling or from the owner of the land on which the person discharging the firearm or shooting the bow and arrow is situated.” You also may not discharge a firearm within the “compact part of a town or city,” including town or city parks and playgrounds [RSA 644:13]. In addition, state law (RSA 644:2, Disorderly Conduct) prohibits purposely making noises with “a conscious object” to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk thereof. [State of New Hampshire v. Rebecca J. Laponsee] Be aware that there may also be town and city noise ordinances.

How does one transport firearms interstate?

Federal law allows for the transportation of firearms interstate under 18 U.S.C. 926a, the “Firearm Owners’ Protection Act.” Under this Act, firearms may be transported regardless of state or local laws as long as it is done in the method required by the statute. State law is pre-empted and a person not otherwise prohibited by federal law may “lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or directly accessible from the passenger compartment… in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.” During such trips, necessary stops, like gasoline and rest stops, seem to be permissible. Be aware that local or even state police may not know about this Federal law. It is advisable to have a handy copy of this book with you when traveling interstate. See the NRA ILA website for an excellent guide to the interstate transportation of firearms, at www.nraila.org/GunLaws/Federal/Read.aspx?id=59.

What steps may a person with a prior criminal conviction take to restore their firearm rights?

If a person has a New Hampshire conviction, then getting an annulment may be possible. Some states allow for expungement, relief from disabilities, executive clemency, or pardon. Normally, the jurisdiction in which the conviction occurred is where one must seek restoration. Federal law recognizes state relief as long as a complete restoration of civil rights has occurred. Congress no longer funds a federal relief from disability system for federal convictions. Accordingly, ATF no longer processes applications. Federal convictions can only be relieved by a Presidential pardon. Contact an attorney knowledgeable in rights restoration to see if what relief may be applicable to specific cases.

May the authorities seize my firearms during an emergency or natural disaster?

No. After Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing illegal gun seizures that took place in New Orleans and surrounding communities, both the federal government [42 U.S.C. 5207] and the state of New Hampshire [RSA 4:46] enacted laws protecting law-abiding individuals from having their guns seized during an emergency or natural disaster.

May my guns ever lawfully be taken by the authorities?

Yes, under certain conditions pursuant to law, they can be seized and subject to forfeiture. Some examples are as follows: 1) when a gun is evidence in a criminal case, 2) pursuant to a domestic violence restraining order, 3) as a bail condition, 4) as a condition of a criminal sentence, or 5) when used for illegal night hunting under RSA 208:8.

When am I allowed to use a deadly force for self defense?

You may use deadly force when you reasonably believe that someone is:

1) About to use unlawful, deadly force against you or another; or
2) Likely to use unlawful force against you or another while committing a burglary; or
3) Likely to use any unlawful force while committing a felony against you in your home or curtilage*; or
4) Committing or about to commit a kidnapping or a rape.

HOWEVER, you may NOT use deadly force to defend yourself or another if both of you can, with complete safety:

1) Retreat from the encounter. Except you are not required to retreat if you are in your home, curtilage*, or anywhere you have a right to be, so long as you were not the initial aggressor; or
2) Surrender property to a person claiming to have a right to it; or
3) Comply with a demand NOT to do something, which you are NOT otherwise required to do.

You cannot use deadly force if you have provoked the use of force against you in the same encounter. You may display a firearm or other weapon with the intent to warn away a threat of serious bodily injury or death to you or to another.

* Curtilage means the outbuildings near your home and all the grounds surrounding your home which are regularly used for domestic purposes.

NH Gun Laws

image source: http://www.lfda.org/

May I possess and carry a knife in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire Knife Law

Imagine a State in America where ANY knife (regardless of blade length, design or operation) may be freely bought and sold (even no sales tax), owned, possessed, carried open or concealed, transported, displayed, collected, made, manufactured, produced, given, loaned, acquired, transferred, bequeathed, or inherited under State law with the only exception being possession in a courthouse and possession by felons.

Imagine further that such a State accomplished this feat by repealing its knife laws which had been on the books for over 50 years that had banned switchblades, daggers, dirks and stilettos. Now consider that not one of its 425 politicians in the State’s Democrat controlled government (400 House members with Democrat Majority, 24 Senators with Democrat Majority and 1 Democrat Governor) opposed the repeal.

Then imagine that same government unanimously voting again to prohibit all local towns and municipalities from passing or enforcing any knife laws. Believe it or not, on May 18, 2010, a unanimously passed HB1665 was signed into law which repealed New Hampshire’s knife laws and on June 9, 2011, a unanimously passed HB 544 was signed into law which preempts New Hampshire cities, towns or political subdivisions from passing or enforcing any knife laws. Here is the story of how it happened — http://www.knifelawonline.com/

How can I find out more about New Hampshire gun law?

You can research state laws on line by going to www.nh.gov and clicking on “Laws and Rules” and then “State Statutes Online”; then, choose “Browse” to look up any state law by its RSA number, written as chapter:section (for example, 159:6). Pistol and revolver information maintained by the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of State Police, Support Services Bureau, Permits and Licensing Unit can be found at www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/ nhsp/ssb/permitslicensing/plupr.html. Applications for Pistol and Revolver concealed carry licenses may be downloaded, and the current list of reciprocal states honoring New Hampshire licenses is there as well.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office (Department of Justice) can be found at www.doj.nh.gov. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s web page includes a long list of useful phone numbers; to find them, go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us and click on “Contact us” at the bottom of the page. Federal law (United States Code) is available on line at www.gpoaccess.gov; look up laws in the form of Title number followed by “USC” followed by Section number (for example, 18USC822). That same web page may be used to look up the parts of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that are referenced in this book.

The NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) maintains a great Web page on New Hampshire gun law, including a nice guide on the interstate transportation of firearms and an important letter from the US Department of Justice on the transporting of firearms on airplanes; go to www.nraila.org/GunLaws.

Finally, the author’s law office in Concord, New Hampshire may be contacted at www.efnappen.com or telephone (603) 223-0001.

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