New Hampshire is a "constitutional carry" state. The term "constitutional carry" is not a legal term but, rather, a catchphrase used to describe states that have adopted, either by statute or state constitution, that no permit is required to carry a gun either openly displayed or concealed. The phrase comes from a belief among many that the constitution is a permit to carry. New Hampshire passed its constitutional carry statute in 2017. Prior to this date it was permitted to carry a gun openly (not concealed) without a permit and had been legal to do so since the founding of the state.
The Federal government originally passed The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 which prohibited the carrying of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. This act was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 (United States v. Lopez).
Subsequently, the Federal government amended the law by adding the language, "...a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce..." This law has not been overturned and is still active.
Here are two of the several exceptions to the Federal restriction:
- The individual is licensed to carry a firearm by the State in which the school zone is located
- The gun is unloaded and locked in a container
There are other exceptions related to law enforcement officers, permission of the school, etc. These exceptions are independent; if one is licensed there is no need to unload the firearm and lock it in a container.
The first exception listed, an individual licensed to carry a firearm by the State, generates a fair amount of controversy. Many states license individuals to carry concealed firearms within their borders by recognizing, or granting reciprocity, to the licensee's home state's firearms license. Many people believe this is a grant of a license by the State to the individual to carry a firearm. The ATF disagrees with this position and has taken a position that only licenses issued by the State in which the school is located are valid as it relates to the Federal school gun safety act. Further reading on this particular issue can be found in the paper, "Federalism Implications of Non-Recognition of Licensure Reciprocity Under the Gun-Free School Zones Act."
The New Hampshire legislature has been working on a bill (as of June, 2019) prohibiting the carrying of firearms on school property. Governor Chris Sununu has previously indicated he would veto a series of gun-control bills headed to his desk via a spokesperson's statment, "the governor is not looking to make any changes to existing gun laws." The bill as written, prohibits the possession of firearms on school property, it does not prohibit firearm possession near school property. (The bill does appear to allow a firearm in an automobile being used to pick up or drop off a student at school.)
The bottom-line for firearms around schools in New Hampshire:
- There is no state requirement to be licensed to carry a firearm openly or concealed
- There is no state prohibition from carrying firearms near a school
- There is a Federal prohibition from carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school without a license
- There is no Federal requirement that a firearm carried near a school be concealed
You can expect to be interviewed by law enforcement if you are openly-carrying firearms near a school. It is perfectly legal for law enforcement to approach you and engage in a voluntary interview. You can expect many such engagements if you make it a practice to openly carry firearms near a school. You can make people nervous if you are openly-carrying firearms generally, and you will absolutely make people nervous if you openly-carry firearms near a school.*
New Hampshire still issues Pistol and Revolver licenses and one should have such a license if carrying a firearm within a school zone.
As it relates to knives, New Hampshire is very liberal as its laws apply to knives. There are few, if any, restrictions on knives. In 2010, New Hampshire passed a law removing some of the restrictions on the types of knives that could be carried.
*I do not have a specific citation to provide regarding the expectations of a law-enforcement interview when openly-carrying a firearm near a school. This statement comes from my experience as one who is licensed to teach concealed carry courses and firearms laws in Louisiana and Arizona. I am not an attorney and I am not licensed teach the laws of New Hampshire. I recommend speaking with a competent attorney who specializes in firearms law in New Hampshire to learn what is legal and, just as importantly, what is reasonable.