Gun rules not for the connected in NH

ThumbOnScalesIn Portsmouth, NH, a small seacoast city, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

The police routinely enforce restraining orders, which come with an order calling for the confiscation of weapons. (As you can imagine, cops tend to be less than thrilled with this particular duty. But they have to do what they have to do). It’s perfectly legal, as defined by the judges and lawyers who operate in this environment, and it’s the biggest cause of Americans’ being listed on the three databases checked by the National Instant Check System. The law’s supposed to be the same for everybody.

In Portsmouth as elsewhere, divorce lawyers have seized on restraining orders as a routine motion in many of their cases. It’s a way for the plaintiff — usually the wife — to put scorched-earth pressure on the other party, and that’s how it was used in this case. (Once her attorney had won the point, the wife recanted her sworn claims — without, needless to day, consequences).

That’s not honest, of course, but we are talking about lawyers here. And lawyers for, usually, embittered, vengeful clients. And for good or ill, the law’s supposed to be the same for everybody.

But something different and special about one case kept it out of routine police documentation, including the daily log: the restraining order was against a local politician. As a result, the case got kid-gloves treatment. with a police captain going alone to the official’s house to retrieve the guns.

That’s not how they do it for an average citizen. To this day, over a month later, the police still haven’t named the pol that got the special treatment.

PORTSMOUTH — Police seized two pistols from the home of a city official who was the subject of a domestic-violence-related protective order, but the removal of the guns was never mentioned in a police log published for the media and the public.

Police Chief Stephen DuBois said in an e-mail that he suspects “the issue of paperwork service, especially relating to domestic-violence orders,” which don’t involve arrests, are omitted from the police log to protect victims’ identities, as well as the alleged perpetrators before they’ve been to court.

According to Portsmouth Circuit Court records, her protective order was approved by a judge on Dec. 10, 2012, and included a routine companion order barring her husband — the city official — from possessing firearms or ammunition. Police Capt. Mike Schwartz responded to the city official’s residence at 7:10 p.m. Dec. 10 and seized a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and a .22-caliber Ruger pistol.

The local newspaper points out that the cops violated their own SOPs in this. So did the paper publish the name? Nopers. It’s pretty clear the reporters know whose guns Capt. Schwartz confiscated:

While the seizure of those weapons is not cited in the public police log for that date and time, it is documented on a “return of service” form completed by Schwartz and filed with the local court.

via Seizure of city official’s guns left off police log | SeacoastOnline.com.

So what’s their reason for protecting the alleged wife-beating and -stalking politician:

The Portsmouth Herald is not naming the city official because he hasn’t been charged with a crime, his estranged wife recanted her request for a protective order nine days later, and her allegations of being shoved and stalked came in the midst of hostile divorce proceedings.

That seems reasonable, until you realize that just like the Portsmouth police, the Herald wouldn’t extend that courtesy to you. 

The law’s supposed to be the same for everybody.

Increasingly we are a nation of men and ranks, not a nation of laws and justice.