CONCORD — When the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted on a bill that would require background checks for all commercial purchases and sales of firearms on Wednesday, the members from Belknap County, with two exceptions, split along party lines.
House Bill 1589 required that all firearms transactions, with exception of sales between qualified individuals known to one another, be conducted by a federally licensed dealer, effectively applying background checks to all commercial transactions and prohibiting private deals closed at gun shows, flea markets and on-line.
After a motion to table the bill failed by two votes, the House adopted an amendment fulfilling the intent of the original legislation by a vote of 174 to 166.
With two members not voting, the Belknap County delegation cast 12 votes against the amendment and four in favor. Republicans Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Charles Fink and Michael Sylvis of Belmont, Bob Greemore, Herb Vadney and Colette Worsman of Meredith and Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton of Laconia were joined by Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, the lone Democrat to oppose the bill. Democrats Beth Arsenault and David Huot of Laconia and Lisa DiMartino of Gilford were joined by Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, the only Republican on the delegation to vote in favor of the bill. Republican Jane Cormier of Alton and Democrat Ian Raymond of Sanbornton did not vote.
However, opponents of the bill then offered an amendment to replace the bill with a call for a study committee, which carried the House 177 to 175. The members of the Belknap County delegation reversed their votes as those who opposed the bill supported the study committee and those who supported the bill opposed the study committee. This time Fields was not only the lone Republican on the delegation but also the lone Republican in the House to vote against the study committee. This time, with Raymond voting, the delegation divided 12 to 5 in favor of the study committee.
After a series of motions to table and adopt the amended bill to establish a study committee failed, the House killed it without a roll call vote, 242 to 118.