The Live Free or Die state looks to be leaning a bit further away from the “live free” part this year. Last week, New Hampshire wound up moving their own version of a red flag gun confiscation law forward, though only barely. In a closely split vote, House Bill 687 was moved out of committee and sent for a full floor vote early next year. Opponents of the bill showed up for the vote holding signs comparing the Democrats to Nazis, while supporters struggled to maintain the bare minimum number of votes required to keep the measure moving forward. (Concord Monitor)
House Bill 687 would establish extreme risk protection orders, allowing family members of those deemed a risk to themselves or others to seek temporary confiscation of firearms ahead of court proceeding – sometimes known as a “red flag law”. Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee took up the bill for a vote Wednesday morning, ultimately deadlocking on whether to recommend it to the full House, 10-10…
HB 687 would establish a streamlined procedure to request a court order to allow firearms to be temporarily removed from the home for four to seven days – without needing to notify the person ahead of time. The process would trigger a court process by which the respondent could prove that they don’t pose a danger to themselves or others, at the end of which the court could extend the order by up to 12 (months).
The upshot of all this action was that, while Democrats hold the majority, two of them sided with the Republicans on the vote as to whether the committee would recommend the bill for passage. This produced a 10-10 deadlock. A second vote to kill the bill failed on an 11-9 vote, so HB 687 moves to a full floor vote in January, but without a recommendation from the committee.
I’ve struggled with the concept of red flag laws ever since they came into vogue. On some level, I can see the use for such laws in extreme cases, but they need to be tailored very narrowly and carefully to minimize any impact on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. But as the NRA-ILA pointed out, this bill falls short of those precautions on a number of levels.
House Bill 687, sponsored by Representative Debra Altschiller (D-Rockingham 19), would suspend Second Amendment rights following baseless accusations without adequate due process protections in place. Such orders would be issued after an ex parte hearing where the respondent is not present to challenge allegations made against them or face their accuser.
Further, if the order is vacated after an individual surrenders their firearms, that individual will have to go to court to have their property returned. Because law enforcement would have immunity for any damage done to the firearms while in their possession, there would be no incentive for them to care for the personal property that was seized.
Unlike some other red flag laws that are under consideration or already enacted, this law requires no notice to the gun owner before action is taken, so you are immediately presumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Even if you can manage to show up in court during the next week and make your case that you were unjustly accused, the judge will still have sole discretion to put the case on hold for up to a year so it can be “considered.”
The other glaring hole in this law applies to accountability on the part of the person reporting the gun owner. Republicans had insisted the law include punishment for false reports to cut down on what’s been referred to as “the crazy ex-girlfriend syndrome.” But the provision that wound up making it into the law only classifies false reporting as a misdemeanor, while violating the confiscation order would be a Class B felony, punishable by up to three and a half to seven years in prison.
If the people of New Hampshire jointly decide that a majority of them want some version of a red flag law, so be it. It’s their choice. But surely they can do better than this version.