David Still

N one of us likes to have our lives “over-regulated,” but most of us would agree that regulating traffic, safe drinking water, not driving under the influence of intoxicants, and using seat belts are some of the “restrictions on our individual freedoms” for the benefit of all of us and our communities.

Senate Bill 719, which became effective Jan. 1, outlines the “regulatory procedure” whereby the court may issue “an extreme risk protection order” for a person who is a “danger to self or others.”

This law allows family or household members, or law enforcement officers, to petition the court to immediately restrict the “control, owning, purchase or possession of all lethal weapons, including firearms,” for a twelve-month period for a person who is deemed a danger to self or others.

This is “common sense” legislation that is intended to protect individual and public safety. The law details the procedures and evidence required to carry out the judicial process and also stipulates that the court must act on the “petition” in an expedited manner. There are specific built-in protections for all parties, the “petitioner” and the “respondent.”

Under the new law, the court will consider past history of suicide attempts, acts or threats of violence against another person, history of threat or use of physical force, and any convictions for domestic violence, DUIs, cruelty to animals and/or recent unlawful use of controlled substances. Procedures are outlined that give the “respondent” the right to “respond” and present evidence as he or she sees fit.

The “petitioner” must give the request under oath. In other words, both parties are given specific requirements and protection under this new law.

I wish this law had been in effect when I served as Union County’s Mental Health Director for more than 30 years. Over the course of these years, I received numerous calls from concerned family members, law enforcement officers and also some concerned local gun dealers regarding their fear of potential harm to themselves and the community. This new law now gives an additional tool to help intervene and protect the person and the community.

David Still is a retired Public Health/Mental Health Administrator for Union County