CITIZEN VOICES® Should NH have a “red flag” law?

Jan 25, 2019

Rep. Debra Altschiller has proposed legislation for 2019 instituting “extreme risk protection orders”. A person subject to an “extreme risk protection order” would be required to surrender any firearms and ammunition to law enforcement and would be prevented from owning guns for the duration of the order. Such an order would be issued based on evidence a person is an imminent threat to themselves or others.

The protection order process

If the person petitioning for the order requests immediate action, a judge would be required to hold a temporary risk protection order hearing the same day or on the next business day. The court would not need to notify the person subject to the order before the emergency hearing; however, the court would need to schedule a follow-up hearing at a later date to give the person a chance to respond.

If a hearing finds there is reasonable cause to believe that the accused person is a risk to themselves or others, the district court could issue a risk protection order.  Risk protection orders issued after an emergency hearing would be temporary, and only last until the later hearing date, when the person subject to the order is notified and has a chance to respond to the accusations.  Once the full hearing process is complete, and if there is clear and convincing evidence the person is a danger, the court could issue an order lasting up to 12 months. The protection orders would be entered into the FBI’s criminal background check database. 

After an order the court could also issue a warrant for law enforcement to search the person’s property and seize any firearms and ammunition.

Evidence

The bill lays out some examples of evidence the court could consider when determining whether a risk protection order is appropriate:

  • An act or threat of violence within the past 24 months (regardless of whether it involved a firearm)
  • Evidence of serious mental illness
  • Past domestic violence or violation of a domestic violence protection order 
  • A previous or existing risk protection order or violation of such an order
  • Reckless use of a firearm
  • Threatening to physically harm someone or stalking them
  • Evidence of substance abuse or alcoholism
  • Sworn witness testimony against the accused person

Return of firearms

If the risk protection order is vacated or ends without extension, the person could request a court motion to return their firearms. At this time, the accuser would be notified and have the chance to ask for an extension of the order.

Penalties

It would be a Class B felony if a person violates a risk protection order against them. If an accuser knowingly files a false report they would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Pros and cons

Proponents say “red flag” laws make it possible to stop gun violence before it has the chance to take place, potentially saving countless innocent lives. They point out that a risk protection order would only be temporary and the accused person would have the chance to defend themselves in court. 

Opponents of such “red flag” laws argue that New Hampshire’s current gun laws are sufficient. They feel the bill could infringe on citizens’ Second Amendment rights and puts too much power in the hands of district court judges. 

Should NH institute a “red flag” law allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from a person deemed a risk to themselves or others?

Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page January 9, 2019

417 citizens responded337 citizens were opposed to a "red flag" law48 citizens were in favor of a "red flag" law32 citizens commented on related questions or issues

What Participants Said

No: 337 people were opposed to instituting a “red flag” law. 

  • “This is one of those proposals that sounds all reasonable and useful....if you don’t understand the inevitable abuses and the unintended consequences. I vote no. Due process matters, and my right to own my firearms is also precious to me...because there is something that happened to me before I had a gun, and now I have the means to keep it from ever happening again.”
  • “New Hampshire is one of the safest states and highest in gun ownership. Stop infringing on the rights of the people!”
  • “No! Just enforce the laws that are already established.”

Yes: 48 people were in favor of instituting a “red flag” law..

  • “If the person is a threat to themselves or others and it’s justified, they should have their firearms taken away.”
  • “I am a NH resident and I think this is a no-brainier. The Second Amendment does not provide for an absolute right. There are exceptions just as there are First Amendment exceptions. We need to secure the rights of the People to be free from harm; this is a reasonable step in that direction.”
  • “Astounding how many people would rather allow people that are a danger to themselves or society to remain armed because they are worried they will lose their gun rights...think about that folks.”

Other: 32 people commented on related questions and issues instead.
These included:

  • Confusion over current laws: “I thought this was already enacted? I’ve seen this already take place.”
  • Consider alternatives: “I'm 50/50 on this...I do think doing more for [mental] illness would be a step in the right direction....”
  • A fine line: “Everyone says no but the first comment after a mass shooting is why was he allowed a gun if they knew he had issues? It's a fine line issue.  Would like to hear more discussion from both sides.”

*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.

See additional comments on this question from Facebook

Comments

Francis Murzyn
- Merrimack

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 7:20am

NO.....The bill is poorly written allowing false statements to be made without any worry. When people can be vindictive without worry of repercussion, they will without thought. Some of the supporters of this bill are using grieving parents of suicide as a soapbox. They will confiscate and then make it financially a burden to get your own property back. Those in the mental health field should be the only ones "professional" enough to give warning. But they hid behind "privileged information" I have seen nothing built into this law that persecutes the one who is proven to falsely accuse. An innocent man in MD is dead because of a false statement. How many more?

JR Hoell
- Dunbarton, NH

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 3:48pm

#No. #NH Resident.
We have a well defined criminal justice system that would be destroyed in a "Minority Report" type environment. People should be held accountable for their actions. If we decide that thought police is the new norm, our society has taken a large step in the wrong direction.

Mark Lord
- Raymond

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 8:40pm

I feel this is a draconian law it violates the 1st,2nd,4th,6th,and 8th rights of our constitution. The police take an oath to defend the constitutions of the USA and NH, this law would put them in grave danger or a pawn for the political powers.NH is the 3rd lowest for violent crime. If the people that think this is a just law or feel that they aren’t safe,move to Chicago they have more and stricter gun laws,you will be safe there

Irene Lagios
- Nashua

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 6:51pm

No! Just enforce the laws that are already established. I live in NH

Francis Murzyn
- Merrimack

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 10:06am

Nope. It violates our rights on a number of levels. Do not give me the bleeding heart of prevent suicide, where the will exist a way will be found. Put attention on the things that really do kill more innocent people each year. Alcohol related death when mixed with driving. Drug abuse which in itself often leads often leads to suicide. Instead we have politicians making decisions based on emotion and not facts.

Amanda Morasse
- Center Barnstead

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:45pm

4 reasons for NO!!
1) Infringes on the 2nd Amendment.
2) It goes against the notion that Courts cannot speculate or Rule upon Heresay. And also the clause "Innocent until proven guilty".
3) There's already regulations and laws that state in a domestic situation weapons are to be ceased. So no sense in having a secondary set to go with this already in use and process by law enforcement.
4) and finally... All it would take is ONE person to have a hair across their ass towards another person and abuse this.

So absolutely NO!!

Connor Regan
- Hudson

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 6:10pm

No. I’ve lived in NH all my life. Laws like this are unconstitutional and violate our second amendment rights. “The right to keep and to bear arms shall not be infringed” this law goes directly against the second ammenedment, the very amendment this country was built on.

This law is also a slippery slope as it can lead to untruthful, and unlawful confiscation of firearms. It can also lead to more deaths as law abiding citizens will not give up their rights easily

Don Diamant
- Milton

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:19am

Our civil rights are human rights. Our 2nd Amendment is clear in the New Hampshire Constitution. The right of citizens to keep and bear arms is not to be restricted. A right can not be taken by simple majority vote. Removal of a right can only be taken when convicted of a crime so great a jury of peers is appointed to make this decision. This is as it should be, no one should lose a human right by a simple act of accusation. Laws such as these have been abused in other states and resulted in the death of innocents. If you believe in making a change it requires a Constitutional amendment and that could never pass, would cost the state greatly for an effort that is futile. That said I hope you do try and find out the hard way our citizens will not stand for such laws.

Chuck Malias
- Manchester

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 10:28am

Absolutely. This law is needed to protect citizens from the abundance of gun violence in this country. Spare me your cries about the constitution and due process. The temporary risk protection order hearing is the due process. - New Hampshire resident

SAMUEL BROADWATER
- Manchester

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 6:15pm

No, this law is simply unconstitutional. Red flag laws circumvent lawful due process for citizens. Red flag laws leave the the opportunity for a spiteful, malicious, or otherwise untrustworthy person to use these laws against law-abiding citizens to take their firearms away. The repercussion for filing a false claim knowingly is capped at a class A misdemeanor.

The law also is not absolute with the return of firearms should the order be found insufficient or expire without extension. The accused may request a court motion to return said firearms, but there is nothing saying the court is required or obligated to return the firearms to the innocent party. The fact that such language is missing from this bill is a huge glaring issue in property rights for those accused and later found innocent. This combined with the unconstitutional nature of the law, how easily it could be used for malicious purposes, and the lack of protection for those found innocent make this law an easy one to say no to.

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Related Bill

HB 687 (2019)
Bill Status: In Committee
Hearing date: Mar 05, 2019

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