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Fact-Checking Governor Sununu’s Veto Message on Life-Saving Extreme Risk Law

August 10, 2020

On Friday, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed HB 687, which would have established a life-saving Extreme Risk law in New Hampshire and addressed the state’s gun suicide crisis. The bill, which would have made New Hampshire the 20th state with an Extreme Risk law, would have allowed immediate family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to temporarily keep guns out of the hands of people in crisis. 

In vetoing the bill, Governor Sununu issued a veto message containing several inaccurate statements about Extreme Risk laws: 

CLAIM: “House Bill 687 goes too far and would weaken the constitutional rights of law-abiding New Hampshire citizens.”
FACT: HB 687 directly addresses the gun suicide epidemic in New Hampshire, protecting Granite Staters by establishing a legal process to temporarily restrict access to firearms by people in crisis. It includes robust due process protections for New Hampshire citizens, and laws like it have been repeatedly upheld in the courts as constitutional. 

CLAIM: “This bill could lead to situations where law-abiding Granite Staters have their property seized with no notice or opportunity to speak in their own defense.”
FACT: HB 687 has robust due process protections built in, with full hearings before judges, witnesses, and evidence from all parties. In instances where there’s an imminent risk of harm, courts may temporarily remove firearms from a person in crisis prior to a hearing, but for no longer than five days. By that point, a hearing must be held, at which all parties have a right to appear. In a ruling last year, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal upheld the state’s Extreme Risk law passed in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which had a requirement for a hearing within 14 days of an extreme risk petition being filed.  

CLAIM: “These and other provisions in House Bill 687 run counter to our constitutional rights as laid out in the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution…”
FACT: Extreme Risk laws have been repeatedly upheld in the courts as constitutional. In upholding Florida’s Extreme Risk law, the First District Court of Appeal stated that “the prevalence of public shootings, and the need to thwart the mayhem and carnage contemplated by would-be perpetrators does represent an urgent and compelling state interest.” 

Extreme Risk laws have been shown to be an effective tool in preventing gun suicides. New Hampshire’s rate of gun suicide is higher than the national average, and 90 percent of all gun deaths in the state are suicides. Gun suicide in New Hampshire has increased by 55 percent from 2009 to 2018. Based on historical precedent, Everytown projects that the U.S. could see an estimated 20 to 30 percent increase in firearm suicides, resulting in an additional 5,000 to 7,000 gun suicide deaths in 2020 alone, solely as a result of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about the constitutionality of Extreme Risk laws here.

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