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RF’s former home state recently took a step toward a little more freedom for its residents. The Providence Journal reports that the Supreme Court of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations rejected East Providence’s denial of a concealed carry license application because the former police chief exercised too much “unfetterted discretion”. The case is Gadomski v. Tavares . . .

Norman Gadonski is a Rhode Island resident and NRA firearms instructor who applied to the police of the City of East Providence for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Gadonski wanted a license because he works as a diesel technician at night, handling cash and expensive tools. He also does a bit of camping, biking, and hiking alone, and wanted to tool up just as a precaution. Getting a Rhode Island license would also allow him to apply for a Massachusetts license, enabling him to join a nearby Massachusetts gun club for practice.

As the Rhode Island Court describes in its decision, Gadonski had a little bit of a record, but nothing that made him a prohibited person:

In response to a question in the application asking if the applicant had ever been arrested, petitioner replied in the affirmative, and attached his Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report from Massachusetts. The CORI report indicated that petitioner had been arraigned on misdemeanor charges twice as an adult. The first charge was for possession of alcohol by a minor, which was dismissed with a payment into the Victim-Witness Fund and court costs. The second charge was for destruction of property. Initially, a continuance without a finding was entered, and then later the charge was dismissed, again with a payment into the Victim-Witness Fund and court costs.

Gadonski was then interviewed by East Providence’s then-Chief of Police, Joseph Tavares and…well, pretty much nothing happened. A month later, Gadonski sent a letter to the chief asking what happened to his application, and received no response. He sent a second letter, containing copies of his Utah Concealed Firearms Permit and his Curious & Relics Federal Firearms License to no avail. Nearly a year later, the Chief got round to sending Gadonski a letter officially denying his application:

“This letter will serve as official noticed [sic] that your application for license to carry a concealable weapon has been denied. Your disqualification was based upon the fact that you failed to show good reason to fear an injury to yourself or property. You failed to show a proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver that would allow me to issue you a license to carry a concealable firearm.

“Based upon the above mentioned reasons, coupled with the fact that you have previously engaged in criminal behavior that resulted in your arrest, I do not find you, at this time, a suitable person to be issued a license to carry a concealable weapon.”

The Court explained that while discretion was allowed in the Rhode Island regulatory scheme, the “key discretionary component” was whether or not the applicant met the “suitability” requirement of Rhode Island firearms law (G.L. 1956 § 11-47-11, specifically.) As a result, the Court, was not impressed with Chief Tavares’ letter:

A local licensing authority need not write a decision rivaling War and Peace[4] in length, but its decision must still address the salient reasoning for the denial of a license….

The statements that Gadomski failed to show a good reason to fear injury and failed to show a proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver are nothing “more than the recital of a litany.” Such bare, rote conclusions are insufficient.

(Citations and footnotes omitted)

The Court then ordered East Providence to “issue a new decision on the petitioner’s application not inconsistent with this opinion.”

The Journal reports that Christopher Parella, who took over as Chief of Police after the resignation of Tavares last year, has ninety days to issue a new decision on Gadonski’s application.

“Just as the court ordered, I, as police chief, will look at this application in a vacuum,” Parella said. “If it’s in compliance, then he will get his permit. I’m not going to put any thought to him having applied before.”

Chief Parella has issued thirteen permits since taking over the job last July, and currently has five other applications pending. A rather significant change from his predecessors — as the Court noted in its decision, no licenses had been issued by East Providence in the ten year period leading up to 2012.

Congratulations to Mr. Gadonski for standing up for his rights. And good luck on that whole Massachusetts application.

(Hat tip: Shall Not Be Questioned).

 

DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

30 Responses to RI Supreme Court Rejects ‘Unfettered Discretion’ in State Concealed Carry Law

  1. “Unfettered Discretion” sounds like what we have in most of CA as well. Even when you don’t have “a little bit of a record” you can only get a carry license in a handful of counties.

    • Face it, if you choose to continue living in Kalifornia, you will continue to lose your rights every year, every session, every election. If you love freedom . . .MOVE.

      • What happens if every conservative abandoned blue states? I suspect that such a strategy could backfire in the long run.

  2. I may be wrong, but doesn’t an arrest without a conviction indicate you were not found guilty of a crime and thus did not “engage in criminal behavior”? Since an arrest only requires probably cause and many are effected without even that it seems that they really give no indication of criminal background.

    • An arrest without a conviction does not mean you were found not guilty. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, if you have arrests without a disposition you may not qualify in some areas for a license (like Texas). For years I had an undisposed arrest on my record until NCIS expunged the whole business.

    • A cop has the power to arrest anyone at any time for any reason including no reason at all or a fabricated reason. You will still get arrested. As lawyers often say, “you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.”.

      The problem is that just an arrest will have a negative affect for life. Even if it is “expunged” or whatever they call it. Once the arrest is put into the system, there are so many other systems that get it including your mugshot on websites in the Ukraine, that future employers and rental agents will be able to see that you were arrested once, and to them that’s as good as a conviction.

      See Dale C. Carson’s book, “Arrest-Proof Yourself”. A former cop and now criminal defense attorney describes how once you are arrested you are totally screwed no matter what.

  3. 13 issued permits in almost a year sounds like the current Sheriff is still holding back in issued permits. Though maybe not as much as his predecessor. They need a “Shall Issue” law to fix this problem. Issue the permit unless there are legal, not subjective, reason(s) not to. This may issue stuff is just not working and is way to arbitrary.

    • But it IS working. It’s working exactly as intended. It is INTENDED to be unreasonable, arbitrary, and opaque. They don’t want to give anyone but their cronies a gun, so the law is written so they can deny anybody else at will.

    • take some time and read our laws before making a statement. we are a shall issue state. to the top law dawgs that does not matter.

    • Looks like Rhode Island carry laws are a bit ambigous:

      http://www.usacarry.com/rhode_island_concealed_carry_permit_information.html

      I assume RI has an active state gun.org working to clarify and enforce shall issue. If not, a good role model would be Cal Guns Foundation in CA, which patiently and forcefully worked to standardize one format for CCW permit, among the 57 counties, and is now filing lawsuits against the most egregious offenders among the Sheriffs. https://www.calgunsfoundation.org/

      Peruta v San Diego and Richards v Prieto have been combined, and will be heard en banc before the 11 judge panel, that reversed the 3 judge panel that forced San Diego Sheriff Gore to allow “self-defense” as good cause for CCW permit application. Orals on June 15th, will be watchable on youtube.
      More info here: http://www.calguns.net/

  4. Wow… what a dictatorial sheriff. I wonder how this next yahoo stacks up..Sounds like If he does get it, that makes him and the sheriff the only ones armed.

  5. “Since an arrest only requires probably cause and many are effected without even that it seems that they really give no indication of criminal background.”

    some people go through life with the notion that accusation = guilt until proven otherwise, even it the accuser is a self propelled ball of sleaze. very common in small towns where everyone has known everyone since kindergarten.

  6. A perfect example of why giving police chiefs this kind of power was a stupid idea from the beginning…

  7. Is unfettered discretion how statists attempt to make freedom sound like criminal behavior?

  8. Glad I live in a shall issue state, meet the requirements, take the class, past written/range test, get finger prints electronically scanned & sent by provider. Receive laminated CHL with driver license photo on it within 30 days. Bingo, no subjective judgement by LEO

  9. The more I OC without the need of permit here in NM, the more infuriating I find the arrogance of those supposedly elected to defend my fellow Americans rights.

  10. Man, that is one poorly written, confusing and weak opinion.

    The Rhode Island Supreme Court has never been a bastion of judicial scholarship. In fact, since I’ve been following that Court, it has issued exactly one opinion that I found to be a model of clarity — and I wrote it.

    • Thanks, Ralph. Since the City or State did not appeal the ruling, this becomes precedent for others, but only in the state, correct? What would be best strategy for RI gun-folk to take, to rationalize the CCW shall issue laws, and make them applicable to each county or city permit issuer?

  11. Meanwhile, in NH, constitutional carry will be vetoed because the (D) gov thinks police chiefs should have more discretion over who gets to carry concealed. That’s the excuse anyway.

  12. So, armed government enforcers have total control over which peasants get to practice their basic human rights.

    Anyone out there still think this is a free country?

  13. Wait so he was arraigned as an adult for “possession of alcohol by a minor”? The fuck does that mean? God the government makes no sense.

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