New Hampshire

Sununu Vetoes Child Assault, Gun Background Check Bills in NH

"Occasionally, well-intentioned legislation can fall apart because of a few misplaced words or technical language that was left out," the governor wrote.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu addresses a gathering outside the Elliot Hospital, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Charles Krupa/AP

A bill intended to crack down on those who assault children could have unintentionally made it harder to prosecute those who harm adults, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday in vetoing the legislation.

Under current law, charges must be brought within six years of first- or second-degree assaults, regardless of the victim's age. The Legislature passed a bill to expand the statute of limitations to allow for prosecution for assaults against children up until a victim turns 24, but prosecutors say the language could be interpreted as prohibiting prosecutions in cases where victims are over age 24.

Attorney General John Formella and all 10 county attorneys wrote to Sununu last week expressing concern about the bill, saying cases with adult victims over age 24 "simply would not be able to be charged or prosecuted."

Sununu said in his veto message that he supports the bill's intent and encouraged the Legislature to re-write it next year.

"Occasionally, well-intentioned legislation can fall apart because of a few misplaced words or technical language that was left out," he wrote. "Unfortunately House Bill 239 contains a fatal flaw that must prevent it from moving forward."

Sununu also vetoed two bills that would have eliminated the state police "gun line," and instead put the FBI solely in charge of performing background checks for firearms purchase using the National Information Criminal Background System.

Supporters of the bills, including the National Rifle Association, argued the current system frequently results in lengthy delays and the state is wasting money on a task the federal government already handles for most other states. But opponents, including the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, argued that the state has made changes to better manage the backlog. Advocates for victims of domestic violence and stalking also said the bill would have put them at heightened risk of harm.

"This bill is not about firearms rights, it is about government administrative processes," Sununu said in his veto message. "This bill, which was introduced to solve a problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is no longer necessary."

The elimination of the gun line was also included in a bill that would have allowed the carrying of guns on snowmobiles and off-road vehicles. Sununu said he supported that part of the bill.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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