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Subject: HB 1509 Would Fail to Protect Granite State Residents From Gun Violence When They Need it Most

February 3, 2020

This week, lawmakers will consider HB 1509, legislation that attempts to address firearm access by people in crisis, but falls incredibly short when compared to HB 687, a robust extreme risk law lawmakers passed in January to curb gun violence in New Hampshire.

Unlike the comprehensive language in HB 687 — a bill that has been extensively studied and amended so that it ensures both public safety and the due process rights of all involved — HB 1509 is dangerous in the following ways:

HB 1509 establishes narrow definitions for those who can be subjects of extreme risk protection orders

  • This bill would only allow ERPOs to be issued when the person in crisis has ties to a New Hampshire college or university. It would only allow people to seek a protective order if the person who poses a threat is a current or former student or employee of a post-secondary educational institution.
    • Gun violence in New Hampshire is not not limited to colleges and universities. Overall, gun deaths have increased 51% and gun suicide has increased by 47% between 2008 and 2017. 
    • This bill’s scope is further narrowed by its focus on only two types of gun violence — campus-related public mass shootings and campus-related suicides.

HB 1509 fails to effectively address the types of gun violence it claims to confront

  • HB 1509 lists a number of factors, some combination of which must be present, in order for a court to issue an order which in any case are seemingly arbitrary. Simply put, HB 1509’s ‘checklist’ approach to assessing suicide risk is misguided.
    • This bill sets up the possibility that a person who is genuinely in crisis could not be made subject to an order because while three dangerous warning signs are present — including previous suicide attempts, expressions of hopelessness, and depression — the bill requires four.
    • In a moment of crisis, the time it would take to have a person evaluated by a mental health professional could be the difference between life and death, meaning that this flawed “checklist” approach would often be relied on in cases of imminent danger.
  • The bill also sets up an exceedingly limited definition of what it means to be a “public mass casualty shooter,” requiring that they plan to kill “more than one person in any public place.”
    • Under this definition, a person who displays warning signs that they are likely to kill just one other person with a firearm or are likely to kill multiple people but not in a public place, they could not be made subject to an extreme risk protection order petition under HB 1509. 
    • The focus on public, mass casualty shooters overlooks numerous other types of gun violence, including domestic violence involving firearms, which, though it may not occur in a public place, is a serious threat to women and families across New Hampshire.
    • More than 99 percent of gun deaths in the US are from shootings other than mass shootings, so the heavy focus on mass shootings overlooks the realities of gun violence in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

HB 1509 is not a true extreme risk law and would not effectively empower New Hampshire residents to intervene in moments of crisis when it matters most. 

Lawmakers should support HB 687, passed by the House in January, which would establish a robust extreme risk protection order process that would empower law enforcement officers and family members across the state to intervene when they recognize warning signs of danger. 

If you have any questions about the legislation or would like to speak with a policy expert or New Hampshire Moms Demand Action volunteer, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

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