CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a new law creating a domestic violence statute in a private ceremony Thursday with the mother of a 9-year-old boy who was killed by his father.
The bill was introduced following the killing of the boy, Joshua Savyon, who was shot to death last year as he spent time with his father at a Manchester YWCA. His father, who also killed himself, had said he was upset over custody arrangements and had threatened to kill his mother or himself and the boy.
“This critical public safety measure that I signed into law today was spurred in part by the tragic loss of 9-year-old Joshua Savyon. Joshua’s mother, Becky, has shown remarkable courage in sharing her story and advocating for this law,” Hassan said in a statement.
Joshua’s Law, which takes effect Jan. 1, doesn’t change the substance of the crimes but will help distinguish an assault that occurred in a bar fight, for example, from one that involves an attack on a spouse. Making domestic violence a crime will allow the state to collect better data that can be used for prevention, education and intervention.
Supporters say the distinction is important because domestic violence often escalates. In the past decade, half of the murders in New Hampshire were related to domestic violence, as were more than 90 percent of the murder-suicides.
“For the first time, law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, and community agencies will have the tools they need to hold abusers accountable and intervene on behalf of victims and their children before the violence escalates,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public policy for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
People convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses under state, federal and tribal law lose the right to purchase or possess guns and are placed on a federal registry. The crime must include the use of physical force, an attempt at it or the threatened use of a deadly weapon. It must also involve a current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. Other relationships that trigger the placement on the federal registry include sharing a child in common or living with the victim currently or in the past as an intimate partner.
Police and prosecutors retain discretion in how they charge offenders.
Bill supporters said it will better ensure that only those offenders who belong on the federal registry are added to it, preserving gun rights for those who might have been at risk of ending up on the list because of a lack of clarity in New Hampshire’s law.
Hassan signed a related law last week that allows courts to limit parental visits to supervised visitation centers that use metal detectors and have trained security staff on site. The law also creates a commission to study supervised visitation centers. The measure was filed after Joshua Savyon was killed at the YWCA, which had hand-held metal detectors, but they were not used that day.