We need to strengthen NH’s background check system

Loophole lets dangerous people continue to purchase firearms


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We all know that dangerous people don't make the best decisions. But sometimes they shine a bright spotlight on themselves, highlighting their dangerous – and sometimes deadly – attempts to purchase a gun.

When a felon or domestic abuser goes to a firearms dealer in New Hampshire and tries to buy a handgun, our background check system will stop him. That failed background check is a warning sign. It’s illegal. And it’s a red flag that someone dangerous is attempting to arm himself.

Sadly, right now in New Hampshire, that’s the end of the story. We aren’t doing anything with the important information on dangerous people who are denied a handgun purchase. They just walk out of the gun store – free to arm themselves through another means. We don’t follow up on the denied and dangerous people who fail background checks — and our laws don’t make it easy for law enforcement to investigate.

At a legislative hearing on Tuesday, April 26, New Hampshire lawmakers have a chance to do something about this dangerous oversight – and it’s high time they do so. Lawmakers should require the NH Department of Safety to alert prosecutors and law enforcement when an individual prohibited from purchasing a handgun tries to do so illegally and fails a background check.

As a mom and a proud Granite Stater, I believe this is just common sense.

Here’s why it’s so important: Given the unlicensed sale loophole in New Hampshire, it is easy for dangerous people who fail background checks to go online, find a stranger on Armslist.com, and set up a private sale with no questions asked.

People who attempt to buy guns and fail a background check can be extremely dangerous. Every year, criminal background checks stop tens of thousands of convicted felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people across the country from buying guns.

In New Hampshire alone, there were over 1,300 total background check denials in 2013 and 2014 — more than half of which involved attempted purchases by felons or wanted fugitives.

As if that weren’t bad enough, research from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that 30 percent of criminals who fail background checks are re-arrested within five years. They are dangerous, repeat offenders.

This is particularly true in the case of domestic abusers – there are too many stories of women who have been killed because their abusive partner or ex was still able to get his hands on a gun after failing a background check.

Following up on the dangerous people who fail background checks is the opposite of searching for a needle in a haystack – which is what law enforcement has to do sometimes. These needles are sticking out on top of the haystack and we aren’t doing anything about them.

It’s vital that New Hampshire take steps to enforce our existing background check laws. Prosecutors and law enforcement need access to the information that can help prevent the next crime from happening – to keep our families and communities safe.

I urge the members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to take the opportunity presented to them on Tuesday to strengthen our background check system – and to give law enforcement the necessary tools to follow up on these denied and dangerous people.

Deirdre Reynolds of Nashua is volunteer New Hampshire chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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