The scope of New Hampshire’s permitless carry law expanded this week with reports that the state Attorney General’s office has determined that local school officials cannot prohibit firearms on school grounds.
Under New Hampshire law, the only places lawfully possessed firearms are prohibited are courtrooms. The state Legislature has reserved to itself the authority to regulate firearms, and all local regulations are preempted and should, therefore, be unenforceable.
When New Hampshire’s permitless carry law went into effect on February 22, 2017, it raised a question as to the law’s impact on the federal prohibition on firearms in schools and a surrounding 1,000 foot “school zone”. Federal law only provides a limited exemption to the prohibition if a person is licensed to possess a firearm or the firearm is unloaded and secured.
Last year, the state Attorney General’s office announced that local law enforcement lacked the authority to enforce federal law with regard to the school zone prohibition. Last week, Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards declared that school officials cannot prohibit firearms on school grounds because only the state Legislature has that authority. The decisions do not affect students, however, since state law grants school boards the authority to prohibit students from possessing firearms on school property.
Several towns have announced they will ignore the Attorney General’s opinion. In the interim, the New Hampshire legislature is considering HB 1749, which would impose a $5,000 penalty on any elected official who has violated the state’s firearms laws.