Judge: Hells Angel can pack a pistol By Jason B. Grosky Staff Writer
SALEM, N.H. -- A judge has ordered police to grant a concealed handgun permit to a member of the Hells Angels, ruling the man's affiliation with the motorcycle club doesn't make him a bad person.
Chief Paul T. Donovan twice refused to grant the permit to Thomas J. O'Donnell Jr., saying O'Donnell is a member of the "outlaw motorcycle club."
O'Donnell appealed, and Salem District Court Judge Michael E. Jones found the police chief failed to prove O'Donnell was unfit to carry a handgun. New Hampshire law requires police chiefs to grant gun permits as long as the applicant is a "suitable person."
"To deny Mr. O'Donnell his permit request solely on the basis of his alleged membership in Hells Angels in the absence of any other relevant information is wrong and not supported by the law," Jones wrote, adding it is "not a crime" to join the motorcycle club.
O'Donnell did not return phone calls to his Cluff Road home, but his lawyer, P. Scott Bratton of Lowell, hailed the decision.
"This is a guy who has no criminal record, no history of violence, nor any other character trait that would make him unsuitable," Bratton said.
"Yes, Mr. O'Donnell is a Hells Angel and he's proud to be a Hells Angel," Bratton said. "Mr. O'Donnell felt this was a discriminatory denial of his Second Amendment right to bear arms. He finds it to have been a despicable action on behalf of the Salem police and a decision that was repugnant to our concept of justice in a free society."
Bratton said Hells Angels is a legal, incorporated organization and not the criminal outfit depicted by some in law enforcement.
O'Donnell, who works in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field, according to his lawyer, was licensed to carry a concealed weapon in the past. But his license expired in October 2001, and Donovan denied O'Donnell's application for a new permit in 2002 and again last November.
"Your affiliation with the Hells Angels and the propensity for violence that such an affiliation entails causes me to believe that providing you with a concealed carry pistol permit is not in the best interests of the Salem community," Donovan wrote to O'Donnell.
Donovan said he typically denies no more than one in 10 applications to carry a firearm. The O'Donnell case marked the first time a denial was overturned, he said.
Donovan said his case was hampered by his inability to divulge law enforcement intelligence reports about the Hells Angels. The chief said he offered to present documents for Jones to review privately, but the judge declined because police would not share the information with O'Donnell's lawyer.
Donovan said he would have granted O'Donnell a permit to carry a firearm, but not a concealed one.
The chief said friction between the Hells Angels and a rival motorcycle group make him uncomfortable giving members of either group a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
"There's no love lost between them," he said. "If you're a civilian in the middle of this, you could see the wrong person get killed."
Salem's last brush with the Hells Angels happened in May 1997, when the Manchester-based Devils Disciples traded gunshots with a Derry-based affiliate of the Hells Angels at the Derry-Salem Elks Club in Salem.
The shooters missed each other, but a 60-year-old Derry man driving by on Route 111 was wounded in the hand.
-------------------- The greatest feat the Devil ever achieved was convince the world he didn't exist.
Neca eos omnes Deus suos agnoscet Translation: "Kill them all. God will know His own." Posts: 10413 | From: Pa. | Registered: May 2001
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Why not they are going to carry them any way regardless so that's at least one 1%er the law will know is packing besides instead of going after ageing bikers they should be going after the gang thugs
Posts: 46 | From: weston,wv | Registered: May 2006
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