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New Hampshire Senate approves “red flag law” allowing temporary firearm confiscation

  • Members of the N.H. Senate stand for the Pledge of Allegience as they gather for a session on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 at the State House in Concord, New Hampshire. The 24 N.H. Senators met in the N.H. House Chamber while adhering to social distancing rules due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Carter Sims, 3, of Pine Island, Minnesota, runs past a mural at the George Floyd memorial outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 25, 2020. (Leila Navidi/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Concord Monitor
Published: 6/29/2020 9:07:03 PM
Modified: 6/29/2020 9:08:42 PM

The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill to allow the temporary confiscation of firearms in dangerous situations Monday, part of an end-of-year suite of bills on the last voting day of the session.

In a party-line, 14-10 vote, senators passed the creation of “extreme risk protection orders” allowing concerned family members, housemates and romantic partners of a firearm owner to ask a judge to have that firearm removed if they believe the person intends self-harm or poses a risk to others.

Democrats held up the bill, known nationally as a “red flag law” as an effective tool against New Hampshire’s rising suicide crisis, allowing loved ones to intervene and remove a gun from a scenario that could turn to tragedy.

The bill would allow the family member or housemate to seek an “ex parte” order — meaning that the defendant would not be present — that would temporarily require the person to relinquish their firearm. That order could be carried out by law enforcement, according to the bill.

A full hearing with the defendant would be held within seven days. Those filing false reports would be subject to perjury charges.

But Republicans argued the act of eliminating firearms without the input of the defendant was a constitutional violation. And, they said, the bill did not have a strong enough vetting process to stop preliminary confiscations.

One senator struck a deeply personal note.

Sen. Jon Morgan, D-Brentwood, invoked the deaths by suicide of his aunt and uncle, in a lengthy and wrenching speech from the floor.

“I urge, plead with this body to reflect on these words and help other families out there — in the midst of a mental health and addiction crisis exacerbated by economic catastrophe and a pandemic — not have to experience what mine has,” Morgan said.

The bill heads to Gov. Chris Sununu, who has expressed skepticism of red flag laws in the past.

Senate Democrats also forged ahead Monday on an effort to attempt to increase corporate accountability for toxic waste. But Republicans slammed it as too broad, and argued it should be narrowed to the perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which the state has struggled.

In a 14-10 vote, the Senate voted to approve a measure to create a “medical monitoring” claim. That would create guidelines to allow a person who had ingested toxins sue a negligent company to pay for a medical monitoring program such as cancer screenings.

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