AG ‘re-evaluating’ whether to report some mentally ill people to national gun database
CONCORD – Attorney General John Formella is re-evaluating the state’s position against reporting certain mentally ill people to the national database that could potentially keep those like John Madore from legally purchasing firearms.
Formella’s office is still investigating how Madore, 33, obtained the 9 mm pistol he used to kill unarmed security guard Bradley Haas ten days ago at the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord or the AR-style rifle found in the U-haul Madore left running in the parking lot before he was killed by a state trooper who was on duty at the hospital.
“The Attorney General’s Office is re-evaluating this issue and is currently engaging with the Judicial Branch,” Mike Garrity, Formella’s spokesman, said Monday.
Former Attorney General Joseph Foster tried in 2016 to have the courts report certain individuals with mental health issues to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under a then new portion of state law, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court refused.
Foster asked then-New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis for the courts to report people to the criminal background check system who had been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial and ordered to a mental health facility.
Foster’s letter July 8, 2016 cited a change earlier in the year in New Hampshire law and said federal law prohibits individuals who fall within certain statutorily defined categories from possessing a firearm, and prohibits the sale of firearms to them by any federally licensed firearms dealer.
Foster quoted the amendment to state law in the letter: “No person, organization, department, or agency shall submit the name of any person to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on the basis that the person has been adjudicated a ‘mental defective’ or has been committed to a mental institution, except pursuant to a court order issued following a hearing in which the person participated and was represented by an attorney.”
Those barred from purchasing or possessing firearms under federal law include anyone convicted of a felony, fugitives from justice, certain aliens, people convicted of qualifying domestic violence misdemeanors, people subject to domestic violence protective orders, and those who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution,” according to Foster’s letter.
The amendment to New Hampshire law was written by Republican state Rep. JR Hoell who said Monday that Foster’s reading of it was the opposite of his intention.
“The amendment prohibits sending mental health records to a criminal background check system until there is an in-person hearing where the respondent has an attorney,” Hoell said.
Dalianis had court counsel Howard Zibel respond to Foster two weeks after receiving his letter saying the law wasn’t clear and declined Foster’s request. Zibel said Dalianis received a joint letter from the Disabilities Rights Center-NH and ACLU-NH “espousing a different interpretation of the statute.”
The newly enacted law wasn’t sufficiently clear for the judicial branch to begin the reporting Foster sought, Zibel wrote, adding Foster was free to bring an action seeking a judicial determination of any reporting obligations to NICS.
Court records indicate John Madore had been charged in the past with crimes involving firearms and spent time in the New Hampshire Hospital as a result.
Garrity said there is limited NICS reporting allowed in New Hampshire possible under a different state law, RSA 332-I:2, I (e) which authorizes the “health care provider” (i.e. doctor, mental health clinician etc.) to report confidential patient information for the “welfare of the individual or the public interest.”
Garrity said, “In New Hampshire determinations on mental health or involuntary admission are not grounds to make a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) report in and of themselves.”
Whether Madore was reported to the NICS in the past is part of the ongoing investigation, Garrity said.
Foster’s 2016 letter said any individual seeking to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer must certify in writing, under penalties of perjury, that he or she is not prohibited from purchasing the firearm under any of the categories mentioned in the law.
Before the gun sale is completed, the firearms dealer is required to contact NICS to confirm that the potential purchaser is, in fact, not prohibited from making the purchase. Under federal law, states are not required to submit the data to NICS but are strongly encouraged to do so.
Court records show Madore had been ordered to the same psychiatric hospital – New Hampshire Hospital – in the past, but are unclear how long he was a patient or exact circumstances of his stay.
See court records here: https://www.courts.nh.gov/media/requested-cases/criminal/state-new-hampshire-v-john-madore
Previous firearms incidents
In New London when he was 23, Madore was charged May 25, 2014, with carrying handguns without a license and resisting arrest. Six months later he was found guilty of resisting arrest and fined $620 and the carrying handguns charge was placed on file without a finding, according to court records.
In another incident, then-Strafford Police Chief Scott Young said in a sworn statement that on Jan. 8, 2016, Madore got in a physical altercation with his mother and sister at their home on 526 First Crown Point Road in Strafford where he choked his sister to the point she couldn’t breathe and grabbed his mother by the neck and knocked her to the floor.
Madore barricaded himself upstairs in his bedroom but later surrendered after having told police it wasn’t going “to end well.”
After Madore was taken into custody that night, Young said they found an SKS assault rifle with 30 round magazine locked and loaded on the bed along with a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun, also loaded with 15 round magazine.
Madore’s mother told Young that her son was angry that they had to put down the family dog.
Madore was charged with second-degree assault, reckless conduct and simple assault, charges that were later dropped.
On March 1, 2016, Strafford County Community Corrections was notified that Madore had been released from New Hampshire Hospital on Feb. 18, 2016, and his whereabouts were unknown.
On May 17, 2016, Strafford police were called to Madore’s home because he was cutting and trying to hang himself, but he ran into the woods before police arrived. Police found him the following day with the rope still around his neck complaining his feet hurt because he was barefoot and they took him to the hospital for involuntary emergency admission.
A further bail hearing was held May 24, 2016, amending bail to $5,000 cash to convert to personal recognizance bail on his transfer to New Hampshire Hospital, according to court records, and on Sept 8, 2016, the hospital attorney told the prosecutor Madore was ready for release to supervised transitional housing.
On Monday evening, a service celebrating Bradley Haas’ life was held in Tilton.