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April 14. 2013 1:06AM

Laws and the chief: Rightful prosecution in Danville

No one is above the law. That is the message Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams sent on Thursday when he announced that he would charge Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons with negligent storage of a firearm. Likely new state Attorney General Joe Foster should take notes.



On March 11, Parsons put his service weapon on top of a safe in his closet, then left to run errands, Reams says. Jacob Carver, a 15-year-old boy who lived with Parsons' family, found the gun. When Parsons returned, he found Carver dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Sometimes tragic events just happen, and trying to hold someone accountable is folly. But sometimes they are preventable because they are foreseeable. When firearms are kept in the same house where minors younger than 16 live, the law correctly holds that firearms-related accidents and crimes are foreseable events that responsible adults must take precautions to avoid.

"The statute holds you responsible for how you store weapons. It should have gone in a gun safe," Reams said Thursday. "We just looked at the statute and the conduct. There's no other option but to charge him. The statute reflects society's concern that if you have a weapon and children, you have to take steps to make sure they don't have access."

Defending Parsons, Danville Selectman Shawn O'Neil said, "If this kid was 16 years old this would not be an issue." That's like saying that if a 15-year-old girl were 16, there would be no statutory rape charge against her 20-year-old boyfriend.

If the law itself were unjust, that would be one thing. It is not. And it applies. Reams is doing the right thing.

Too often the public sees law enforcement officers get more than the benefit of the doubt when caught up in what appears to be criminal activity.

The most recent outrageous example was the Attorney General's office initially refusing to pursue a case against then-New London Police Chief David Seastrand after a young woman said he offered to drop criminal charges against her if she would pose nude for him.

If the public is to have confidence and trust in New Hampshire's overwhelmingly good law enforcement community, the small fraction of officers who violate the law must be held accountable in precisely the same way the rest of us would be. Kudos to County Attorney Reams for getting that and acting accordingly.

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