CONCORD, N.H. — The Republican-led New Hampshire Senate voted Thursday to further study a proposal to ban weapon devices known as bump stocks, though not as rigorously as Democrats preferred.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Woodburn, of Whitefield, sponsored the bill in response to a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October. The shooter killed 58 people during a country music concert using semi-automatic rifles equipped with devices that allow for firing at dramatically faster rates.
Critics called the proposal broad and overreaching, and Woodburn and other Democrats acknowledged it needs more work. They advocated having a task force of lawmakers and outside stakeholders study the issue, but Republicans rejected the idea. Instead, they said lawmakers should defer to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is reviewing the issue.
“The deep dive is happening at ATF, and that’s the appropriate place,” said Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.
Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said a more thorough New Hampshire-specific study was warranted given the complexity of the issue.
“Time and time again I’ve heard that New Hampshire needs to go its own way and craft recommendations and legislation that are suitable to our state, so why in this case would we not want to take the recommendation from ATF but have them examined closely and debated within a true study committee?”
The Senate voted 14-9 along party lines to refer the bill to interim study, which means it will go back to committee. The tactic often is used as a way to effectively kill legislation.
“While it is clear that the intention of this legislation comes from wanting to protect our citizens from mass shootings, the reality is this bill will not achieve that,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry. “For decades it’s been possible to create bump fire with something as simple as a belt loop or a wooden dowel, and attempting to ban a bump stock will not change that fact.”