Today, in a court case at Rockingham County Court, Judge Marguerite Wageling ruled that signatures of the issuing authority (mayor, police chief or selectman) are not required on pistol/revolver licenses. The case was brought by Cheryl Dean of Northwood against Northwood’s Chief of Police, Glendon Drolet, because Drolet refused to sign Dean’s renewed pistol/revolver license. He had signed her previous license but for reasons still unknown, he would not sign her PRL renewal, even when requested to do so by Dean’s attorney, Evan Nappen.
In court, Drolet’s attorney claimed that New Hampshire’s Attorney General told Drolet that he had to be consistent and either “sign all the PRLs or none of them” and that he was allegedly told that he had a choice. This is news to a majority of people who issue and hold PRLs in the Granite State because it is the Department of Safety (DOS) who created the application form and the PRL itself, which has a space for both the holder and the issuing authority to sign (the law does state that the PRL holder must sign the license).
In the court ruling, the following was written into Wageling’s order:
At the hearing, Chief Drolet informed the Court that he consulted with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office for guidance on complying with RSA 159:6 and was told he is not required to sign the license.
The PRL has been in place since 1923 and there has never been a problem with any issuing authority about signing them (that have been reported at least). It’s unclear what Drolet’s real motivation here is. He had no problems signing PRLs previous to the law being updated that makes PRLs optional. Nothing else changed in the law other than adding an additional year (from 4 to 5) on how long the license is good for.
Below is a copy of the PRL in the case. You can see the line where the issuing authority has been signing the PRL for the past several decades and what Drolet decided to do instead, making this PRL nothing but a piece of paper that has absolutely no bearing in law and actually puts the holder at risk where PRLs are required by law:
Judge Wageling is correct when stating that the law does not require a signature by the issuing authority but it is the Department of Safety who was tasked with creating the application forms for the PRL. Does that make the application invalid as well?
You can review the judgement from the case below:Court Order 6-18-2019 12.38.7 3088808 7A993D24-4EEE-404E-8A66-6D4FB63FA063
Political Buzz reached out to the attorney general’s office but was unable to reach a “live” person by the time of publishing.
It will be interesting to find out if the attorney general or his office actually made the statement that a signature, on a license they are ultimately responsible for, is unnecessary. Drolet was ordered to add his title and name to the PRL and was also ordered to pay attorney’s fees for Dean because he was in violation of the law. Because Wageling didn’t think Drolet was acting in “bad faith,” he won’t be personally responsible to pay the fees, the taxpayers of Northwood will because he didn’t perform his job properly.
What’s also interesting is the Northwood Police Department’s website. They have a page the public can use for forms but the PRL links are dead. They don’t even call the PRL by the appropriate name. It seems there is more going on here than just Drolet’s refusal to sign a license that he is authorized and required by the State of New Hampshire to issue:
This will be one to watch.