POLITICS
12/04/2012 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2012

Delmar Burridge, New Hampshire Lawmaker, Seeks Gun Ban In Public Buildings

A newly elected New Hampshire state legislator has proposed legislation to ban openly carrying guns in public buildings.

State Rep.-elect Delmar Burridge (D-Keene) said he wants to stop the practice of carrying guns into public buildings, including schools, libraries and the Statehouse, as a way to make the state safer.

"It's outrageous," Burridge told HuffPost. "I don't think public employees, people who go to college should be subjected to this."

The legislation, which is gathering opposition from the state chapter of the National Rifle Association, would allow those with conceal carry permits to continue bringing guns into public buildings. Certified peace officers also still would be able to carry guns openly in public buildings under the legislation.

Burridge said New Hampshire's conceal carry laws require a permit that can only be obtained with three character references, along with permission from a local police department -- a process that ensures safety when permitted carriers bring guns into public spaces, he said.

Burridge noted that the practice of openly carrying guns into state buildings has caused problems in the state Legislature. Rep. Kyle Tasker (R-Nottingham) dropped one of his guns on the floor during a House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee meeting in March. Tasker, who carries two guns in a shoulder holster, said at the time that he was feeling "loopy" after giving blood and that caused the gun to fall to the floor. Tasker's gun did not discharge.

In 2011, the Tea Party-controlled state House of Representatives voted to allow guns in the Statehouse. State Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord) told HuffPost in March that 45 House members, more than 10 percent of the 400-member body, regularly carried guns to legislative meetings in 2012.

"There are children going into state buildings to see government," Burridge said. "It is pure lunacy."

Democrats will control the House following the 2012 election. Burridge and the Democratic majority are scheduled to take office on Wednesday.

While proponents of carrying guns in public spaces say those who are armed can protect against incidents like the Aurora movie theater shooting, Burridge disagreed.

He cited the 2011 shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). "Look at Arizona and the congresslady," he said. "They have guns falling out of shirttails there and no one came to the rescue."

But Mitch Kopacz, the president of Gun Owners of New Hampshire, the state's NRA affiliate, dismissed Burridge's legislation as "silly." He stressed that gun ownership is a constitutional right and that Burridge wants to violate the Second Amendment.

"It is a ridiculous bill," Kopacz told HuffPost. "It is a law that is not necessary in New Hampshire. Open carry has been the way it's been since the constitution was written."

Kopacz said his group will educate its members about Burridge's bill and encourage them to reach out to state legislators. There is no safety issue with open carrying of guns, he said.

"They can drive a car into a building, they can carry five gallons of gasoline into a building and burn everyone alive. They aren't banning those," Kopacz said. "There isn't a problem of people shooting each other in buildings in New Hampshire. An armed society is a polite society."

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