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Applicants for gun licenses must fill out form, await background check

New Hampshire Sunday News

January 19. 2013 11:31PM

New Hampshire doesn't tally how many people have pistol/revolver licenses to conceal firearms and leaves it up to communities to decide who is deemed under the law "a suitable person" to be granted a license.

Assistant Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney said police typically issue the pistol licenses, but some towns designate others to issue them.

"Each town keeps their own records, and neither the Department of Safety or any other state agency as far as I know has any idea who does or does not have a license or how many are issued in a particular town or city or statewide," Sweeney said in an email.

The names of people issued licenses are exempt from the state's right-to-know law "because the Legislature has decided that it is not good public policy for the criminal element to possibly know who might own a gun," Sweeney said.

In New Hampshire, people are not required to have a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver in their home or place of business, "so one is not necessary if you simply want to protect yourself against a potential home invasion," Sweeney said.

A license also isn't required to carry a concealed but unloaded firearm in public or in a vehicle, or to carry a loaded pistol or revolver on the street or in a public building if the weapon is visible and is not covered by an outer garment, except in a courthouse or on the property of a school, or in any private business that has banned firearms on their property.

The state law governing the licenses states the applicant must be "a suitable person," which Sweeney said means "a lot is left to the discretion of the local official as when a person would not be a 'suitable person' and there is no specific test written into the law to help them determine this."

He said convicted felons aren't allowed to possess deadly weapons, so they can't receive a license.

"Other typical reasons for denial would be that the applicant has a criminal record of convictions for violent offenses, has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for treatment of a diagnosable mental illness that involved dangerousness, is under indictment and awaiting trial for a felony, is known to be mentally ill or incompetent, has made statements threatening people in the community, is under a domestic violence protective order or a bail order from a judge not to possess firearms, or has carelessly and inappropriately brandished or mishandled a firearm in a way that would demonstrate that they would pose a danger to themselves or others," Sweeney said in an email.

"None of these reasons are specifically mentioned in the law, but they are typical of instances where police chiefs have concluded that someone was not a 'suitable person.' The police in a specific city or town should not issue a license to someone who is not a resident of their community," Sweeney said.

Manchester police conduct a criminal background check and a local history check on each applicant, placing that information in a packet for a detective to review. An applicant, for instance, can be disqualified for such things as a person's mental health history, police Capt. Nick Willard said.

Applicants fill out a questionnaire and pay a $10 fee. The licensing authority has 14 days to grant the license or state in writing why the application was rejected.

In 2012, 35 of 1,466 applicants were denied a license. Among those rejected were three people charged with a criminal offense for falsifying their application or misrepresenting information.

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