HB696: Who You Gonna Believe? - Granite Grok

HB696: Who You Gonna Believe?

Lisa Simpson scream

If allowed to become law, HB696 sets up New Hampshire to be on the threshold of becoming a police State.”

So shrieked the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, in an email to its membership. However, HB 696, entitled “Protective Orders for Vulnerable Adults,” was written by folks who hoped to prevent elderly people like Geraldine Webber from being exploited.

‘Fired police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin lost his $2 million-plus inheritance from the late Geraldine Webber by order of Judge Gary Cassavechia, who concluded that Goodwin exerted undue influence over Webber.., the judge wrote, “by acting upon her fears and hopes.” ‘

It seemed that after examining  NH RSA 161:F, ELDERLY AND ADULT SERVICES, Protective Services to adults, the bill’s authors and sponsors believed elderly and “vulnerable” adults could not seek a protective order against those they, or their guardians, believed were exploiting them to halt the abuse and provide a means of punishing the perpetrator if he or she continued; they sought to statutorily change that.

While not an unreasonable premise, the bill’s sponsors and authors made the mistake of turning to NH RSA 173:B, Domestic Violence Statutes, a wildly imbalanced and misused statute, for its model.  HB 696 took the worst and most egregious aspects of DV – including ex-parte, no-knock warrants, and nearly unilateral firearm and “deadly weapon” confiscation – and dressed it up to look like “relief” from financial predators.

Once HB 696’s text was linked on the list of 2019 LSRs, a campaign began to try to reign in the hoplophobes – who emerged as the primary backers of the bill – and try to craft legislation that would actually help the elderly and vulnerable.

Factions were clearly drawn. Non-profits who actually profit from seniors. Rrue-believer hoplophobes. Shrieking  Chicken Little “2A’ groups. They all saw this as a way to raise money.

Public legal assistance centers who understood the issue had to remain silent or risk losing the protections so desperately needed by a large NH population and those who really believed there should be a way to protect the elderly – an ugly collection to be sure.

Multiple meetings were held, though the extremists on either side were not invited, in an attempt to reframe the bill to deliver on the promise of protecting the elderly.  It quickly became clear, however, that the virulent anti-gunners had taken control of the bill’s sponsors and authors and were pushing for scorched earth.

Good intentions notwithstanding, HB 696 was headed for sacrifice on the dueling altars of the “you just hate old people” and “you just hate guns” crowds. Each serving the purpose of raising money and inflaming passions.

Oh, and let’s not forget the snarling  “We’ll get you, Governor Sununu” crowd who probably wouldn’t care how he voted or why.

While these meetings were ongoing, the bill left the House slightly improved than it began when the Democrat committee chair agreed with the Republican minority on the committee and held the bill to remove a lot of the gun issues that had nothing to do with elders. But it still left mostly a hoplophobe’s “dream” and landed in the Senate where it was again amended, still more an anti-rights bill than a pro-elder bill.

It went back to the House to a vote of non-concurrence.  A committee of conference was formed and, out of the CoC, those looking to protect seniors finally realized it would be vetoed by the Governor as a gun-grab and that it needed to focus instead on protecting vulnerable adults and assigning penalties to perpetrators.

But for penalties for the use of a “deadly weapon” used in the commission of abuse of an elderly or vulnerable person, the gun-grab so desired by the hoplophobes was removed. The original intent of the bill emerged: protection of a vulnerable population from being forced to surrender their money and possessions.

FINAL SIDE BY SIDE HB 696_July 7 2019

Sadly, shriekers on both sides remain, and it is up to the Governor to make an informed decision whether to veto or support.  The bill is no longer a “gun grab.”

Confiscation of a “deadly weapon” suspected of being used in a crime occurs every time a “deadly weapon” is used.

“The one gun owners group in NH and now affiliated with a national group has always believed it is their right to shoot a spouse or live-in with a BB or pellet gun. They fought including those being defined as “weapons” that you cannot use against a human being without having “just cause.”  Not doing what your husband says is not “just cause.”  The same people claim pistol-whipping another is no reason to lose your pistol, “it’s not like you shot them or something.”

The other group that has a taxpayer funding of almost $8 million wants the bill vetoed because while it originally mirrored much of the Domestic Violence statute – as they demanded – the accused could lose their guns without due process.  Hypocritically, it is the same group that refused to include elder abuse in the Domestic Violence statutes because vulnerable adults might be entitled to some of the 8 million dollars currently used only for women.

Long story short, the Governor is in a tight spot.

Without the bill’s passage, the elderly currently being abused cannot obtain a protective order. With no statute to back it up even a judge’s order to remove abusive people from a vulnerable adult’s home could not be exercised.

Or, the Governor can listen to the threats of bad “political mailers” or primarying Republican senators from the gun group that believes it’s OK to shoot or pistol-whip your spouse.

But he can do neither in the dark.

The light is bright, and the facts are clear.  The agreement made with the Governor’s office, the elderly advocates and the two gun groups who worked to remove the “gun grab” and make it an actual bill to protect the elders is well known

Those of us who worked for more than six months to help craft it have kept our word; now it’s the Governor turn.