In a victory for reasonable over plausible, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a “loaded gun’’ actually means a gun that is loaded. Unlike in horseshoes, “close’’ doesn’t count in this case. Good for the court.
Why the Manchester Police Department and the Attorney General’s Office ever thought otherwise is hard to fathom. But the police charged one Oriol Dor with illegal possession of a loaded handgun when they stopped his car on May 8, 2012, and discovered an unloaded gun in his glove box. Also in the glove box was a magazine with bullets.
Since Dor didn’t have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, the law doesn’t allow him to carry a loaded weapon in such fashion. But Dor argued that he wasn’t carrying a loaded weapon.
Manchester District Court Judge Gregory Michael, giving the police a great benefit of the doubt, said the law was “potentially ambiguous’’ on the point and bucked it up to the Supreme Court. The AG should have moved to not waste taxpayer money, but instead did so by arguing the case.
The law says what a loaded pistol is. It “shall include any pistol or revolver with a magazine, cylinder, chamber or clip in which there are loaded cartridges.’’
The AG argued that “with’’ should be interpreted broadly as “denoting nearness, agreement or connection.’’
The court quickly disarmed that argument, which it said could leave citizens to wonder just how “near’’ is near.
Does “next to’’ count? How about “really, really close?’’
Fortunately, the court saw this not as a close case at all. Loaded means loaded, it said. We are reminded here of the woman’s reply when W.C. Fields, in the “Bank Dick’’ movie, asked if her little boy’s toy gun was loaded.
“No,’’ she snapped. “But I think you are!’’
“We would have preferred it go the other way,’’ said Assistant AG Nicholas Cort, who argued the losing case.
We think the majority of his bosses, the citizens of New Hampshire, are glad that it did not go his way.