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NH Supreme Court tosses unusual anti-gun rule

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, on June 2, overturned a state administrative rule that required non-residents to obtain a concealed weapons permit in their home state before they could qualify for a New Hampshire permit.

“By requiring nonresidents to submit proof of their resident state licenses, the administrative rules effectively import into New Hampshire law requirements different from those set forth in” New Hampshire’s statute governing carrying a concealed firearm, Chief Justice Linda Dalianis wrote for a unanimous court.

New Hampshire law gives the state Department of Safety the authority to issue concealed carry permits. Under the statute, the department may “make two — and only two — determinations in deciding whether to grant a license: (1) whether the applicant has either (a) good reason to fear injury to his person or property or (b) any proper purpose; and (2) whether the applicant is a suitable person to be licensed.”

In July of 2013, the department added a mandate requiring non-residents to prove they possess a concealed carry permit in their home state. Department officials said the requirement was necessary to judge whether an out-of-state applicant was a “suitable person to be licensed.”

New Jersey resident Scott Bach, along with the New Jersey Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, sued. Because it is nearly impossible to get a concealed carry permit in New Jersey, New Hampshire’s rule effectively barred Bach from getting a New Hampshire permit, they argued.

The court agreed, noting in the decision that “the Department acknowledged during oral argument” that “if another state prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons, then, under the existing regulatory scheme, residents of that state would be unable to obtain a New Hampshire license to carry a concealed weapon, irrespective of whether the applicant had a proper purpose and was otherwise suitable.”

Bach’s attorney, Daniel Schmutter of Hartman & Winnicki in Ridgewood, N.J., said Bach never applied for a New Jersey permit “because he knows he cannot qualify for a New Jersey carry permit under New Jersey law. Very, very few people can qualify for a permit under New Jersey law.”

By incorporating New Jersey permit requirements into New Hampshire’s requirements, the rule left Bach, a previous New Hampshire permit holder, unable to renew his permit.

Schmutter, who litigates First and Second Amendment cases, called New Hampshire’s rule, which stood for just shy of three years before being struck down, “extremely unusual.” Pennsylvania is the only other state with the same requirement, he said.

Pennsylvania’s concealed carry law requires a home-state permit if the applicant’s home state requires one.

“We’re very pleased with the result,” Schmutter added. “We think it’s very important that applicants for permits be treated equally regardless of where they live. The rule that was stricken obviously treated people from different states dramatically differently based on where they lived. And that’s wrong.”

Michael Todd, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, said the department is in the process of reviewing the decision.