Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law Friday to allow people to carry loaded pistols or revolvers on snowmobiles or off-highway recreational vehicles.

The measure, House Bill 1636, took effect immediately. Supporters characterize it as cleaning up an oversight in a state law that generally allows people to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

“New Hampshire’s laws are well-crafted and fit our culture of responsible gun ownership and individual freedom,” Sununu said in a short statement Monday.

But opponents say there are good reasons not to allow people to have loaded firearms on vehicles bumping along rough terrain.

“When you’re carrying a loaded gun on a snowmobile or off-road vehicle, and the trails are not necessarily level and even, it seems to me that’s an accident waiting to happen,” N.H. Rep. John Bordenet, D-Keene, said Monday.

“The other thing is, if you’re carrying a loaded gun and going across forests, you could be using it to hunt animals. I do not think that is a fair way of hunting.”

Bordenet, a retired engineer, is on the N.H. House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which recommended HB 1636 for passage, 11-6, on Jan. 26.

The full House voted in favor of the measure, 204-134, on March 10, with most Democrats in opposition and nearly all Republicans in favor. It later passed the N.H. Senate on a voice vote.

Rep. Norm Silber, R-Gilford, one of the bill’s sponsors, said handguns are designed to not go off when dropped, such as if one were to fall out of a snowmobiler’s holster.

He also pointed to the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment protections on the right to bear arms.

Silber said HB 1636 was needed to rectify a drafting mistake that failed to include snowmobiles and off-highway recreational vehicles in the bill Sununu signed in 2017 authorizing concealed carry of a handgun without a permit.

HB 1636 is one of several gun measures the Legislature approved during this past session.

Sununu also signed House Bill 1052, allowing semi-automatic rifles to be used during hunting provided they are loaded with no more than six rounds of ammunition.

Still awaiting the Republican governor’s decision is House Bill 1178, to prohibit the state from enforcing federal regulations on guns, including presidential executive orders.

Republicans in the N.H. Legislature this year blocked bills that would have expanded background checks required before gun purchases, prohibited displaying deadly weapons at rallies and demonstrations and barred guns from polling places.

Meanwhile, at the national level, negotiations among U.S. senators have produced a bipartisan agreement in principle on a package of gun-safety measures following recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.

That package includes funding to help states in the creation of “red-flag laws” intended to keep guns from those who are a danger to themselves and others. Also included are provisions to support increased access to mental-health and suicide-prevention programs. Another portion of the package aims to keep guns from those found guilty of violence against a dating partner.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567.

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