NEW JERSEY – As A217 becomes effective today, New Jersey joins more than a dozen other states with red flag laws. Officially named the “Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018,” the new law adds to New Jersey’s status as the state with the second strictest gun control laws in the nation.
The name of the act somewhat speaks for itself. The new law allows concerned family or household members to file a petition with the court expressing fears about a relative or someone else in their home who appears to exhibit signs of an extreme risk.
The definition of family or household members mirrors the characterization of those seeking a restraining order for allegations related to domestic violence. The difference is that the new law focuses on something a little different.
For one, it’s not just about the risk posed to others. Filing a petition for this type of order also considers whether individuals “pose an immediate and present danger of causing bodily injury” to themselves as well. The emphasis is on controlling access to firearms in either situation.
“Perpetrators of mass shootings and many suicide victims often display warning signs before they act, said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald “We know now 'Red Flag' laws like this could have prevented the Parkland, FL and Dayton, OH massacres from occurring.”
“The interviews after many of the shootings have become cliché,” concurred Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain. “A lot of people speak after the fact of the warning signs.”
Once an “extreme risk protection order” is executed, it prohibits the person in question from “having custody or control of, owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition.” The same holds true for carrying permits or those associated with firearms purchases.
No court fees are required to file the petition and local law enforcement agencies may help concerned parties make the application. If the judge finds enough evidence to issue even a temporary order, the directive includes a search warrant. Law enforcement officers serving the protection orders will request the surrender of firearms and ammunition.
According to Germain, the new law “gives police officers another tool to mitigate harm and acts as a protective measure.” Law enforcement officials can also petition the court for an “extreme protection order.”
Ultimately, it’s up to the county prosecutor to determine if the protection order should stay in place. In cases where there are concerns about a law enforcement officer, notification must be made to the individual’s employing agency. Subsequently, the disposition of an internal affairs is expected to keep the prosecutor’s office advised of their findings.
Extreme risk protection orders can be appealed and a petition for termination of the order will be entertained by the courts anytime after it is entered. One of the factors considered is whether the individual has “received, or is receiving, mental health treatment.”
However, the bottom line is that it will be up to the individual named in the protection order to prove that they no longer pose a significant danger to themselves or others that should restrict their rights to firearms.
Gun advocates find the law disconcerting. Scott Bach, an attorney and executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, says it impacts due process and property rights protected under the United States Constitution. Bach has also been a vocal opponent against the state’s ban on magazines over ten rounds.
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.