CONCORD, N.H. — An effort to keep better track of domestic violence offenders will go before New Hampshire lawmakers next year, and advocates expect it to bring about a debate over gun rights.

A proposal calls for a statute that would add the victim’s relationship to the offender as an element of the crime. Thirty-four states and the federal government have such laws, but New Hampshire is not one of them.

The law would make it easier to compile data about domestic violence and help police investigating an assault know whether a previous assault on a suspect’s record was, say, a bar fight or a case of domestic violence, said Amanda Grady Sexton of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

She said it also would help clarify which offenders lose the right to own guns under federal law.

People convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses under state, federal and tribal law lose the right to purchase or possess guns and are placed on a federal registry. The crime must include the use of physical force, an attempt at it or the threatened use of a deadly weapon. It must also involve a current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. Other relationships that trigger the placement on the federal registry include sharing a child in common or living with the victim currently or in the past as an intimate partner.

But some people may be put on the registry who don’t belong while others are left off who should be on it because the existence of a relationship between the offender and victim is not always clear under current New Hampshire law, Sexton said. Including the domestic relationship will help eliminate guesswork, she said.

“Right now, it’s tricky who goes into the registry and who doesn’t,” she said.

Sexton insists the bill would not take away existing gun owners’ rights, but acknowledges that the issue is bound to come up during debate. She said the proposal also does not require prosecutors to file charges under the new domestic violence statute and expects some will continue to use existing statutes instead.

“If gun owners are upset, then they have a problem with current law,” she said.

Former state Sen. Robert Clegg, president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, says he’ll reserve comment until he sees the bill.

House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Concord Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, expect the bill to get a lot of attention.

Bradley said he wants to see the details, but added that “everybody on all sides wants to see domestic violence curbed.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.