CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed three gun control bills Friday, saying New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the nation that has a long and proud "tradition of responsible firearm stewardship."
The bills passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature included background checks for commercial firearms sales, imposing a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm, and prohibiting firearms on school property.
The vetoes, coming days after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, were expected; Sununu had said he wasn't looking to make any changes to existing gun laws.
"Our focus as a nation must be on addressing the root causes of hate and violence," Sununu wrote. "Here in New Hampshire, we have taken multiple steps to address our mental health needs and to build a more welcoming and tolerant state. From the school safety task force, to rebuilding our state's mental health system, including the largest investment of resources in decades, to establishing the Governor's Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and to establishing the state's first Civil Rights Unit to step up prosecution of hate crimes, we are taking major steps to ensure the safety of our citizens is paramount."
Sununu said the bills would not solve national issues or prevent evil individuals from doing harm, "but they would further restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding New Hampshire citizens."
None of the bills had passed the Legislature with enough votes to override a veto.
Legislators had approved a compromise version of a bill that would ban most guns from school grounds. Only police, members of the military or those authorized by school boards would be allowed to carry guns onto school property. Parents picking up their children would have to leave their guns in their cars.
The other bills imposed a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a gun and to require background checks for all firearms sales or transfers.
Democrats expressed disappointment and frustration Friday.
"Since there have been more mass shootings than days this year, our thoughts and prayers are empty gestures without the courage and conviction to act to prevent future tragedies," Senate President Donna Soucy said in a statement. "That's why it is so deeply disappointing that in the midst of a national crisis and in the wake of two mass shootings, Governor Sununu is holding New Hampshire back from making progress on gun violence prevention with his vetoes of three common sense public safety bills, including background checks — which 90% of Americans support."
Dozens of supporters of the bills rallied in Concord earlier in the week, insisting the bills would ensure schools and communities are safer. Their rally came just days after two mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio. Several opponents who came to the rally argued the bills were unnecessary since the state has such a low murder rate. Others warned the bills would threaten resident's 2nd Amendment rights.