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Following Counterproductive Legislative Sessions, Recent Gun Violence in New Hampshire Highlights Critical Need for Extreme Risk Laws


New Hampshire, a state with some of the weakest gun laws in the country, just concluded a legislative session during which lawmakers used the time to move forward on a number of dangerous gun bills that would significantly diminish gun safety within the state and put the state’s communities at further risk of gun violence. 

Meanwhile, the state currently does not have any laws on the books that would require background checks for all firearm purchases or allow courts to issue extreme risk protection orders — a lifesaving tool that can ensure that individuals in crisis do not have access to guns.

In 2020, the New Hampshire legislature attempted to address these gaps by passing an extreme risk bill that would have established a legal process to temporarily limit access to firearms by people in crisis and empower New Hampshire families and law enforcement officials to take action when they recognize dangerous warning signs. The bill was sent to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk in August of that year, where it was vetoed.

Recently, reports described a tragic incident in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in which a father shot and killed his 12-year-old son before killing himself. The father had a previous history of mental health crises and violent behavior, and was facing charges related to domestic violence and child endangerment. Had extreme risk laws been in place, these warning signs could have led to the issuance of an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) temporarily restricting his access to guns and requiring the relinquishment of any guns in his possession. 

From the New Hampshire Union Leader:

[The father] was arrested in December 2020 after police said he assaulted the woman he was living with amid what seemed to be a mental health crisis… When [the father] went to court… his public defender agreed he needed mental health treatment…

A judge signed off on the plan [for treatment] in April… He would be required to appear in court every three or four months… to make sure he was continuing with the treatment plan… 

The first of those checkin-hearings was scheduled for this month… But [the father] would not make the hearing.

Extreme risks laws are an essential lifesaving tool in preventing individual warning signs from escalating into gun suicides and other gun violence tragedies. In a state like New Hampshire, those laws could be particularly effective. New Hampshire’s rate of gun suicide is higher than the national average, and 89 percent of all gun deaths in the state are suicides. In New Hampshire, the rate of gun suicide increased 26 percent from 2010 to 2019, compared to a 13 percent increase nationwide.