October 17, 2013TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro resident James Vittum may carry a loaded pistol, but it must be visible to the public. That's as far as it goes, for the Tuftonboro Police Department has denied him a concealed pistol/revolver license on the grounds of Unsuitability.
Vittum's petition to the court to overrule the Tuftonboro Police Department's denial of a permit to carry and conceal a loaded pistol or revolver on his person or in his vehicle was denied by Justice Robert Varney of the 3rd Circuit Court, District Division, in Ossipee on Oct. 9.
The ruling followed a hearing on Oct. 2 in response to Vittum's petition, filed on Sept. 18 against the town of Tuftonboro, for denial of a concealed pistol license.
When Vittum applied for the license on Sept. 1, he did not state a reason for needing a concealed carry permit.
On Sept. 18, after the denial letter had been sent, he met with Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury to amend the application. This time he wrote "Ed Burns" as the reason. According to the town's trial memorandum, he responded upon questioning that Burns had twice threatened to murder him.
Burns is the ex-husband of Stacey Burns, who was murdered in Wolfeboro on May 10, 2009. Both Burns and Vittum, a former boyfriend, received national attention with appearances in an ABC 20/20 program titled "Unsolved Mother's Day Murder: Who Killed Stacey Burns?" which aired in January, 2011.
The memorandum states that Shagoury's inquiries showed no complaints to police alleging threats to his life.
Vittum included Asstant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin and Sgt. Scott Gilbert of the NH State Police Major Crimes Unit in his list of references, both of whom are acquainted with him in connection with their investigation into the as-yet-unsolved homicide.
The facts of the matter, as presented on behalf of the Tuftonboro Police Department by the town's law firm, Sager & Haskell, PLLC, were thus: Vittum applied for a pistol/revolver license on Sept. 1. His signature authorized the department to conduct a criminal background check, which revealed four separate Class A Misdemeanor convictions in the last 15 years, including simple assault, criminal mischief, criminal trespassing and hindering apprehension/prosecution.
According to the trial memorandum, Vittum's record contains numerous motor vehicle convictions over the years, including defective equipment, operating without a license, speeding, and displaying a false inspection sticker. In addition, the department has been called out to respond to a number of complaints from citizens involving Vittum.
Most recently he was arrested on July 17 and charged with carrying a loaded handgun without a license, a Class B misdemeanor. On Sept. 18, he pled guilty to the charge.
As a result of the information gathered by his department, Chief Shagoury denied Vittum's request on the grounds of Unsuitable Person.
Varney states in the Oct. 9 court order, "Given the Petitioner's criminal convictions and his record of volatile personal behavior documented by the substantial number of police contacts which did not culminate in prosecution, the Court was persuaded by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Vittum was and is not a suitable person to be licensed under RSA 159:6. The Court notes that two of the references given by Mr. Vittum to attest to his suitability in connection with his application expressly declined to support his application."
The court did not make a finding on the "proper purpose" requirement of RSA 159:6. "It did, however," wrote Varney," note that the Petitioner's stated aim in his application was to arm himself with a concealed weapon in response to alleged threats of murder which he had not reported to police. Such a predisposition to counter violence or threats of violence with yet more violence may well provide another basis for finding that the suitability requirement was not met."