CONCORD — The House will hold a public hearing today on a “red flag” law, which would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily keep guns out of the hands of people in crisis when there is evidence they pose a risk of harming themselves or others.
Second Amendment advocates argue that the so-called “extreme risk protection orders” the law would enable diminish due process and have the potential for abuse.
The N.H. Firearms Coalition is protesting the fact that the hearing has been moved to Representatives’ Hall, where firearms are banned.
The hearing on HB 687 was moved from Room 204 in the Legislative Office Building to Representatives’ Hall, which is now designated by House rule as a gun-free zone.
“Gun owners should never be forced to give up their natural rights of self-protection to go before the legislature to express their views,” said NHFC Vice President Paul Marquis. “This is nothing but a blatant attempt to suppress the turnout of the gun owners.”
It’s not uncommon for hearings to be moved to Representatives’ Hall when a large turnout is expected, as is the case for this bill.
“Space is always at a premium for hearings,” said House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook. “Knowing that people would want to have their voices heard on this subject we wanted to make sure that there was space for everyone and Representatives’ Hall was available.”
Volunteers with the New Hampshire chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, will testify before the committee, and are expected to turn out a large number of supporters, as are gun rights’ groups.
In addition to attending the hearing, Moms Demand Action is hosting a luncheon for lawmakers, lobbying for HB 687 and other gun-related bills working their way through the legislature.
Other gun-related bills include legislation to require a criminal background check on every gun sale, to create gun-free school zones and to establish a firearm purchase waiting period in the state.
The “red flag” bill, if signed into law, would enable a law enforcement officer, family or household member, or intimate partner to file a petition with a district division of the Circuit Court, alleging that the person named in the petition poses a significant risk of causing bodily injury to himself or others by having a firearm.
The petition would have to be accompanied by a written affidavit, signed by the petitioner under oath.
After holding an evidentiary hearing, a judge could issue an extreme risk protection order prohibiting the person named in the order from purchasing, possessing or receiving any firearms, and directing that person to turn over all firearms and ammunition in their control to local law enforcement.
The order would remain in effect as long as specified by the judge, subject to appeal.
In any appeal, the people whose guns were taken would have “the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence” that they no longer pose a significant risk of injury to themselves or others.
A group of Republican reps is planning to sue the House Speaker over the newly approved firearms ban in Representatives’ Hall.
According to their attorney, Dan Hynes, the lawsuit was put on hold after the surprise resignation of longtime House Sergeant at Arms Walter Sword last month. Sword was named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, since the sergeant at arms would have to enforce the ban.
“Since the sergeant at arms position has not been filled yet, we were attempting to see if there was a replacement or whether to just not name the sergeant at arms,” said Hynes. “I expect a decision will be made soon.”
Shurtleff has appointed J.B Cullen as acting sergeant at arms and expects to have an election by representatives for a more permanent replacement soon, according to House Communications Director Mike O’Brien
Cullen previously worked on staff in the sergeant at arms office, O’Brien said.