Big win for carry licensing — misdemeanor pot conviction no basis to deny

[Posted Monday, October 30, 2012, at 11:00 a.m.; UPDATED Saturday, November 17, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.]

Pro-Gun New Hampshire General Counsel, attorney Evan Nappen, has won a significant court case involving concealed carry licensing in New Hampshire.  His client was denied a NH non-resident carry license solely due to a 34 year old misdemeanor marijuana conviction received when he was 18 years old. The State was stubbornly enforcing their administrative rule (which, by the way, has no basis in law) that makes any misdemeanor conviction for drugs an automatic denial.

In the article published a week ago on this website, attorney Nappen announced a public hearing on changing the NH Department of Safety’s rules for denial of a non-resident carry license, and made the crucial point that NH authorities often mistakenly rely on the overly restrictive rules used by the DOS/State Police for non-residents to deny resident carry licenses.  Further, his article went on to argue that the DOS Administrative Rules went beyond the law, and should be changed to bring fairness to both NH residents and non-residents.  (See (http://pgnh.org/public_hearing_on_nh_carry_license_rules_that_threaten_gun_rights_please_be_there .)

Now, attorney Nappen has won an important court case that stands for two legal issues regarding concealed carry licensing in New Hampshire.  Quoting the judge’s decision: first, that “there does not appear to be any articulable, legitimate reason for the disparate treatment of residents and non-residents”; second, that “the provision precluding the issuance of a pistol permit [sic*] for an out of state resident based upon a misdemeanor drug conviction is unreasonable on its face.

Put these two elements together, and you have a judicial precedent (though not binding on other courts) that can be used in other, future appeals of NH licensing denials, for both residents and non-residents, that a misdemeanor drug conviction should no longer be used as an automatic basis for denying concealed carry licenses.  Given how often NH police and courts deny licenses because of such misdemeanor convictions, this precedent will prove to be instructive.

We believe that this is a step toward defining the “suitable person” language in the state’s carry licensing law to mean that anyone who isn’t prohibited by law from possessing a gun shouldn’t be prohibited from concealed carry.

The case against the NH State Police was decided on October 22, 2012, in Concord District Court by the Honorable Judge Boyle.  This is the third case on NH non-resident license denial taken by Attorney Nappen — and not only has he won all three of these cases, he is the one who defacto established that non-resident denials could be appealed in court (and Concord District Court in particular); previously, denials could be appealed only in administrative hearings within the Department of Safety — where the process is unfairly slanted against the gun owner.

* (Note that, as described in our article at http://pgnh.org/gunlawfaqs, the NH Pistol/Revolver License for concealed carry should not be called a “pistol permit.”)

UPDATE: The State, meaning the NH Attorney General's office, submitted a "Motion for Reconsideration" (i.e., a request for the judge to change his mind because of further arguments) to the court, but on November 13, Judge Boyle denied that motion "for all the reasons set forth by [the appellant (meaning attorney Nappen)]."