A New Jersey law is set to take effect Sunday, allowing law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are found to be mentally unstable or at risk of harm to themselves or others.
With the new law, the “Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018,” family members and those living in the same household as a gun owner can request their guns be taken away through a petition to the state Superior Court.
The application must identify why the particular gun owner presents a risk of either self-harm or harm to others. If a judge agrees with the claims of the application, they may then issue an order to law enforcement to collect the firearms and bar the person from owning, buying or possessing any firearms for a period of time.
Under the new policy, law enforcement officers may also petition the court for the removal of guns. People who are neither family, or living in the same house or a law enforcement officer will have to request that a law enforcement officer submit an application for the removal of another person’s firearms on their behalf.
Before a judge can approve the application for removal of firearms, the judge must question the petitioner under oath, along with any witnesses the petitioner can produce for their claim. The judge may, however, accept an affidavit in support of the original petition as grounds for issuing a protective order.
County prosecutors in a case must provide a judge with any evidence of a person making threats or acts of violence towards themselves or others, has any restraining orders, prior arrests or convictions, any history of drug or alcohol abuse or has recently acquired any firearms, ammunition or other weapons.
A protective order also suspends and revokes any permits to purchase or carry firearms.
The law describes a number of different possible protective orders including a “temporary extreme risk protective order,” and a “final extreme risk protective order.”
After the judge makes an initial finding whether a person is a threat, a temporary order is issued and a hearing is to be set within 10 days for a final order.
No information in the law appears to describe the intended duration of a “temporary” order.
“A temporary extreme risk protective order issued under this section shall remain in effect until a court issues a further order,” the law states.
In order to end a final order, the original petitioner or the person who had to surrender their firearms can submit a new form to terminate the order. A hearing is then scheduled to evaluate the request before a judge. If the person who surrendered their firearms is making the request without the support of the original petitioner for their removal, they bear the burden of proof to show they are no longer a risk to themselves or others.
New Jersey’s laws on guns are seen as the second toughest in the nation, behind California, according to the Giffords Gun Law advocacy group.