NJ starts ‘red flag’ law allowing guns to be temporarily taken
A "red flag" law that allows courts to order guns to be temporarily removed from people identified by police or family members as a danger to themselves or others takes effect Sunday in New Jersey.
The law allows family members or a law enforcement officer to petition a judge to have guns and ammunition taken away from people deemed to pose a significant danger of injury. The length of the revocation would vary in each instance.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, said red-flag indicators are real and that such a law could have prevented mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Dayton, Ohio.
“This meets our mandate, which is to walk the line to protect lawful gun owners under the Second Amendment and at the same time find ways to reduce these incidents of violent crime,” Greenwald said.
“Unfortunately, these issues keep coming up. It’s timely because these acts of violence continue to happen, so it always seems to be timely,” he said.
Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said the law is unconstitutional and that people should call 911 in an emergency, not petition a judge.
“The bill is flatly unconstitutional. It’s an overreach,” Bach said. “Of course nobody wants people to have guns who shouldn’t have them. But there are existing safeguards built into existing law for decades if not longer that protect against that.”
Around one-third of the states now have some version of a red-flag law, with most of those approved over the last 18 months. Bach said New Jersey’s is “one of the most extreme.”
“It fails to contain obvious safeguards that protect due process, and it also allows people to fabricate allegations that result in confiscation of legally owned property with no penalties,” Bach said.
“Due process is what this country is founded upon,” Bach said. “This bill dispenses with that. The opportunity to be heard happens after your property’s already been taken.”
Greenwald said temporary restraining orders don’t take away a person’s rights.
“We can’t ignore and the supporters of these associations have to have a better answer when our country leads the world in gun violence and there’s not even a close second,” Greenwald said.
“We are walking this line of protecting this cherished amendment and at the same time putting in measures that keep our residents safe. And that’s not really an infringement of due process,” he said.
A family or household member can petition for a temporary extreme risk protective order. A law enforcement officer can apply for such orders, too, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal two weeks ago issued a directive outlining how law enforcement agencies are to implement the law.
Greenwald said that while family and household members can directly petition a judge for a protective order, he’s suggest going through local law enforcement.
“The safest and easiest way for most individuals who aren’t familiar with the court system or may be intimidated by that process would be to call your local police department,” Greenwald said. “They are vigorously engaged in trying to prevent these types of crimes and they will respond immediately and quickly, and they can help you with that process and that petition to the court.”
A judge is to consider a person’s history or threats of acts of violence or physical force; any domestic violence restraining orders or sexual violence protective orders; any arrests or convictions for violent indictable crimes, stalking, domestic violence or animal cruelty; a history of animal cruelty or drug or alcohol abuse; and any recent purchases or guns or ammunition.
Within 10 days of the filing of a temporary order, a hearing is to be held on whether to issue a final extreme risk protective order.
A person against whom a temporary or final protective order is issued must surrender their guns and ammunition to local police or sell them to a federally licensed dealer.
Greenwald said studies find ‘red flag’ laws can reduce violence, including suicide.
“By using a type of protective order, they have reduced the issues of suicide tied to guns by 14% in Connecticut and 7.5% in Indiana,” Greenwald said.
A court may terminate a final protective order after a hearing requested by either the petitioner or respondent. Once a final protective order is terminated, people can petition to have their guns and ammunition returned by police, which must be done within 30 days unless the gun has been reported stolen or the person is prohibited from owning a gun by state or federal law.
If surrendered guns and ammunition aren’t retrieved by the owner within a year of a final protective order being terminated, the property can be destroyed after one final notice is given.
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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org