Northwood Police Chief Glen Drolet’s decision to stop signing state pistol/revolver licenses when he issues them landed him in court Tuesday and raised questions about how other New Hampshire police departments handle licensing.
“The way I see it, I wouldn’t want to be the officer in one of those states looking at an unsigned government-issued form trying to figure out if it’s valid,” Newfields police Lt. Michael Schwartz said Wednesday.
Like other New Hampshire police chiefs, Schwartz said the Newfields chief still signs gun licenses when they’re issued.
Hampstead Police Chief Joseph Beaudoin and Epping Police Chief Michael Wallace still sign them as well.
“We run background checks, etc., and our chief has always and continues to sign them if they meet the qualifications,” Hampstead police Lt. John Frazier said.
Northwood resident Cheryl Dean filed a lawsuit against Drolet and the town of Northwood after he issued her a license to carry, but refused to sign the document. The license said only that it was issued by the Northwood Police Department.
Instead of signing his name on the line that asked for an “authorized signature” as he’s done in the past, Drolet included only the statute number RSA 159:6, which is the law covering licenses for carrying pistols and revolvers. Left blank was the line below that, which asked for the title of the person signing it.
At a hearing Tuesday, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling ruled that while the law didn’t specifically require the authority issuing the license to sign, she ordered that Drolet’s name and title must appear on it. She did not require that he also include his signature.
The town of Northwood was also ordered to pay Dean’s legal bill associated with her suit.
Dean took legal action because she was concerned that the unsigned license would not be considered valid by other states that have agreed to recognize New Hampshire licenses.
According to Northwood police prosecutor Michael DiCroce, Drolet stopped signing the licenses after being told by the state Attorney General’s office that he wasn’t required to sign them. The change came after the state in 2017 made it legal to carry a concealed pistol or revolver without a license.
But Dean’s lawyer, Evan Nappen, insisted that the state made no changes that would have prompted police chiefs or others who issue licenses to suddenly stop signing them.
While the law doesn’t state that a signature is required, the license form created by New Hampshire State Police does include a line for an authorized signature and title. Judge Wageling stated in court that the form was inconsistent with the law.
State Police Col. Christopher Wagner could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
When asked to clarify the state’s position on the license signing, Kate Spiner, director of communications for the Attorney General’s office, said Wednesday that her office is still looking into the matter.
It appears that Northwood isn’t the only police department that is no longer signing the licenses.
A former Hooksett gun owner who got his license to carry in March 2017 said he had similar concerns because his license wasn’t signed. The man, who asked that he not be identified, provided a copy of his license to the New Hampshire Union Leader showing that it was issued by the Hooksett Police Department, but there was no signature and no title.
“We lived in Hooksett from October of 2013 to May of 2018. I never had an issue with it being signed prior to the enactment of the constitutional carry. When I asked why it wasn’t signed I was told that they no longer needed to per the RSA,” he said.
Hooksett Police Chief Janet Bouchard did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.