An accurate characterization of Bloomberg and co
CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a “red flag” bill Wednesday that critics say is a “gun grab” and advocates said would save lives.
CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a "red flag" bill Wednesday that critics say is "gun grab" and that advocates claim can save lives.
The House voted 201-176 to send the measure on to the Democratically-led state Senate, which is expected to embrace it. The office of Gov. Chris Sununu didn't respond to a request for comment.
Before yesterday vote, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee had deadlocked, 10-10, over what to do with the bill to create the new class of so-called extreme risk protection orders.
During the debate, Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, said the state averages 123 deaths by gun a year, with 90 percent of those being suicides.
"Unfortunately no state legislature has the power to unring the bell of gun violence or gun suicide, but what we can do is take sensitive steps to prevent that bill from being rung again, again and again in the future," Meuse said.
Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, read a letter from Margaret Tilton of Exeter, who lobbied for more gun control after her son, George, 23, killed himself with a gun the day after Thanksgiving in 2017.
“'We have a largely silent epidemic of depression and hopelessness among our young people in this state. Please have the courage to vote yes for this legislation,'" said Altschiller, reciting Tilton's words.
Rep. Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson, said the measure (HB 687) would take guns away from someone based only on an accusation and the temporary seizure could occur based a judge's order by telephone without giving the accused the right to even testify before infringement of their rights.
"This will turn due process right upside down and have people found guilty and then they have to prove their innocence. Please oppose this unconstitutional, gun-grabbing bill," Rice said.
Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, said the measure doesn't deliver mental health services to the person before the guns are taken away nore does it address the seizure of other potentially harmful items, such as knives or drugs, he said.
"This is not going to help anybody; it is strictly for gun confiscation," Burt said.
A leading supporter of taking guns away from people believed to be in distress as soon as possible is Rep. Robert Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who expects Sununu will veto the measure if it gets that far.
Sununu vetoed four other gun control bills last year and Republicans in the House and Senate were enough to sustain them.
"I'm pleased by the vote," Cushing said, "but we're going to have to vote on it again and next time we're going to need about 267 votes (to override a veto) to win."
There are 17 states and the District of Columbia with laws that allow a family member or police to petition a judge to order the temporary seizure of guns from someone they consider a danger to themselves or others.
Rep. Nancy Murphy, D-Merrimack, said a subcommittee she ran spent the summer and fall fine-tuning the bill to make clear it can only apply in "extreme instances of crisis." That panel also made it a misdemeanor for someone to knowingly make false accusation.
"This bill is at its core a public safety measure," Murphy said.
Among the groups supporting the gun control bill were the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, New Hampshire Medical Society and the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
On hand Wednesday were volunteers for Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence held signs, a group financed by billionaire businessman and Democratic presidential primary candidate Michael Bloomberg.
J.R. Hoell, secretary of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, referred to Bloomberg's behind-the-scenes role.
“It appears that Bloomberg's puppets are busy at work in New Hampshire," he said in a statement. "Instead of fixing the issues that we have in New Hampshire, the House spent over 70 minutes discussing how to strip citizens of their property, more time than was spent on all of the other bills left over from 2019.”
Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, said the bill would permanently take guns away from an accused because the state has no procedure to remove a person from the national crime database once added.
"All this order does is simply disarm this person," Abbas summed up. "It doesn’t do anything to address the reasons why this person wants to harm himself or others.”
The debate was one of the longest and most emotional so far in the 2020 legislative session, which has officially opened with both chambers slogging through 230 bills left over from 2019.
The Senate finished the work on its 76 pending measures in about three hours. The House has scheduled sessions Thursday and on Jan. 16 if needed to complete its slate.