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Supervised visitation: The metal detector problem

When the state tries to fix a problem the easy way — by imposing a mandate that forces people to apply a specific remedy — bad things often happen. Though this usually is observed in business regulations, it is no less true when the mandate applies to non-profits, as was revealed recently regarding a well-intentioned House bill.

Last August, nine-year-old Joshua Savyon of Amherst was shot to death by his father during their supervised visitation time at the YWCA in Manchester. The father had been the subject of a domestic violence protective order, which forbids the subject’s possession of firearms, but the state mistakenly allowed it to expire. When he entered the visitation center that day, he was not searched.

Legislators responded by preparing a bill to require the use of metal detectors at all facilities where supervised parental visitation takes place. But as some providers testified, that mandate would carry an enormous expense. Not only must metal detectors be bought, but they would have to be manned by trained security personnel. The resulting costs would cause some, perhaps many, non-profits to stop offering supervised parental visitation.

For that reason, the House Children and Family Law Committee wisely voted 17-2 against the bill, which is up for a full House vote this week. This bill would do more harm than good if, as is likely, it were to reduce the number of non-profits that offer supervised parental visitation, which provides real protections for children and parents. Sometimes the easy answer is not the best answer. The issue requires more study.


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