Part 1, Article 2-a of the New Hampshire Constitution, adopted in 1982, provides that “[a]ll persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property, and the state.”

The New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected an Article 2-a challenge to New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated § 159:3 (prohibiting possession of firearms by convicted felons) in State v. Smith.1 The Smith court found that the state “right to keep and bear arms” is not absolute, and concluded that a restriction of the right is valid as long as it “narrowly serves a significant governmental interest.”2 The court held that the interests served by the statute were the protection of human life and property, and the statute narrowly served these interests “by prohibiting a category of persons likely to be dangerous from possessing dangerous weapons.”3

The New Hampshire Supreme Court also rejected an Article 2-a substantive due process challenge to N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159:6-b (authorizing the suspension or revocation of a license to carry a concealed weapon), in Bleiler v. Chief, Dover Police Dep’t.4 The Bleiler court declined to subject gun regulations to strict scrutiny, and held that “the reasonableness test is the correct test for evaluating a substantive due process challenge to gun control legislation.”5 The court emphasized, however, that this test “focuses on the balance of the interests at stake, rather than merely on whether any conceivable rationale exists under which the legislature may have concluded the law could promote public welfare.”6 The court held that the statute was reasonable limitation, noting that it “does not prohibit carrying weapons; it merely regulates the manner of carrying them.”7 The court concluded that, “[i]n view of the benefit to public safety and in light of the lack of restriction on possession of loaded weapons in one’s home or business,” the statute did not “‘subvert unduly’ the self-defense aspect of the state constitutional right to bear arms.”8

  1. State v. Smith, 571 A.2d 279 (N.H. 1990). ⤴︎
  2. Id. at 281 (citation omitted). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Bleiler v. Chief, Dover Police Dep’t.927 A.2d 1216 (N.H. 2007). ⤴︎
  5. Id. at 1223. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Id. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎