What's the Point of Dillon's Rule? - Granite Grok

What’s the Point of Dillon’s Rule?

As Steve wrote yesterday, SAU 55 passed a School Board policy that bans visitors from being in possession of a firearm on the SAU 55 School(s) property. The problem is they don’t have the legal authority to pass that policy, and it can not legally be enforced. The Chief of Police in the Hampstead, according to the press release issued by Hampstead Public Schools, was supportive of the measure.

I emailed the Chief a question. It was quite simple, really. Will you enforce this policy? As of this writing, I have not received a response.

The Union Leader reported that they actually consulted with their attorneys prior to voting on the measure.

As several have noted across Facebook, this policy is in direct violation of RSA 159:26, which makes me wonder how their attorney advised them.

I. To the extent consistent with federal law, the state of New Hampshire shall have authority and jurisdiction over the sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearms components, ammunition, firearms supplies, or knives in the state. Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, no ordinance or regulation of a political subdivision may regulate the sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearms components, ammunition, or firearms supplies in the state.

NH RSA 159:26

[N]o ordinance or regulation of a political subdivision may regulate thepossession… [of] firearms, firearms components, ammunition, or firearms supplies in the state.

This, of course, is not the first time a municipal body or political subdivision (yes, that include School Boards) has tried to subvert NH RSA and pass their own ordinances that are not authorized by the legislature. As a Dillon’s Rule State, the Legislature reserves ALL legislative rights unless it specifically passes a law that enables political subdivisions to pass ordinances or regulations.

So, what’s the point of having these laws? Why bother, is these rogue municipal boards will just run afoul of them anyways and apparently no one in the State Government will stand up to stop them. Where is the Attorney General, Governor, Executive Council, and duly elected legislative members? Will anyone stand up for the rule of law in our state and defend our rights? Not even asking rhetorically.

Not that long ago, Portsmouth passed an (unenforceable) ordinance that bans styrofoam city-wide. The City of Franklin passed an (unenforceable) ordinance banning Kratom earlier this year. The City of Keene (illegally) raised the smoking age to 21. The Town of Peterborough (illegally) banned outdoor shooting ranges.

Every time a city, town, or one of their boards pass an illegal and unenforceable ordinance or regulation it opens up taxpayers to lawsuit costs. But, the lawsuits are justified and should be filed every time. If the legislature can’t, won’t, or just doesn’t pass a law – or if the Governor vetoes it using his vested powers, it can be frustrating at times – sure. But that does not authorize town boards to usurp the power vested in the legislature and pass their own laws.

That’s not how any of this works. And for good reason.

New Hampshire has 400 elected House members and 24 Senators. Couple that with 5 Executive Councilors and a Governor, and we have one of the largest elected legislatures in the world!

That’s one Representative for every 3,375 residents, approximately.

So, what’s the point of Dillon’s Rule then if Cities, Towns, and their subdivisions just do whatever they want anyways, with almost no pushback or consequence?

Residents in towns like these MUST stand up for their rights and push back when a tyrannous local board passes illegal, unenforceable ordinances. Further, we must encourage more people to VOTE and pay attention to local races. How many people can name their local officials from the Select Board to the Planning Board or the Zoning Board? How about the Budget Committee, the people that propose the budget that raises YOUR property taxes every year? How many have been to one local meeting the previous year, just one?

Legislation could be passed to allow for “recall elections” to remove rogue officials who violate RSA. We could also revoke their “immunity” from liability if they willfully and knowingly violate NH RSA. Allow them to be sued directly. Maybe they’ll respect the law a little more when their life savings is on the line. I’ve heard many hoplophobes present the argument that gun owners should be required to have liability insurance. Let’s make all elected officials carry liability insurance instead!

At any rate, Dillon’s Rule is only as good as it is enforced. I don’t know that the Attorney General has the authority to do anything here, but since he took control, by force, of an elected County Attorney’s office I’m sure there is something. That said, the Attorney General basically said they’re not going to do anything when the Secretary of State confirmed that Manchester is in direct violation of NH RSA with the upcoming School Charter Commission elections.

Time to push back. Hard.

Pay attention to your local races, and turn out the vote. It’s your only hope.