Board of Firearms Permit Examiners gets hit with media agenda driven “journalism”.

Posted by Jonathan at 16 February 2013

Category: CT Legislation, Issues - State of CT, Opinion

There was a recent incident in Newington involving a mother at a local “Chuck-E-Cheese” restaurant.  Tawana Bourne presented her firearm in an altercation at the restaurant.  Ms. Bourne broke two laws that day:  Briefly (according to Newington PD) brandishing a firearm as well as carrying the firearm in a posted “no guns allowed” facility.  Both of which, would most likely be illegal.  I’m not going to delve deeper in the permit revocation aspect in this case.  She had a permit and it was revoked.  I doubt she’ll get her permit back any time soon (though she can navigate the courts and application process again).

I have a serious problem when the local media pick up the story that she was denied her permit and it was overturned by the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners even though she had (according to the article) been arrested several times, committed to a hospital and a family member had a restraining order against her.

On it’s face, the information presented above is true.  However, there are many “factual discrepancies” between the facts and sensationalism.  Let’s break the facts down, according to the article (and Middletown PD), the reasons for the denial were:

  • Arrests in 2001, 2003 and 2004
  • “as well as” two convictions
  • “along with some other arrests within our town, two times we had to commit her to the hospital for a mental evaluation”
  • Restraining order

Now, when you read the article, it makes it sound like the board was presented information that she was a career criminal/mental case and shouldn’t get her permit.  The article quotes Ms. Bourne stating that she has been clean for seven years.

The article misses A LOT of the facts and how the above arrests, committals and restraining orders were related.  I actually delved a little deeper in the case because I attend just about every firearms board hearing as an observer.  They are NOT a permit mill.  If the board had unanimously overturned a denial, then there had to be a reason beyond the article mentioned above.  Sure enough, there was.

The “crime spree” mentioned above didn’t take place over an extended period of time.  The majority of the arrests and committal/restraining order issues delve around incidents occurring in ONE WEEK. in 2001.  I will present you with the information (good and bad) that I researched by listening to the hearing.

  • The reason for the actual denial was failure to properly list arrests/convictions on the application.  In these incidents displaying knives (steak knives), being committed to a hospital and having a restraining order against her.
  • Middletown brings up a few arrests, but no convictions.  One board member questions whether mentioning arrests without conviction is valid or not under CT statute 42-154a.
  • Convictions related to these cases were failure to appear (class a misdemeanor), possession of a restricted substance (most likely prescription medicine) which was a class C misdemeanor and a fine was paid.
  • Board agrees that all the charges/convictions above were not disqualifiers under state law (but the behavior can be “weighted upon” to judge suitability.

These all revolve around incidents on June 23rd and June 29th of 2001.  The appellant at that time was approximately 19 or 20 years old (I didn’t get the specific age from the audio).  The article does not mention that the majority of this criminal activity stems from these two dates in the same week..  The restraining order, I don’t give much weight to as it was an ex parte restraining order.  A complaint was made, a judge issued the order without a hearing (which is common).  When it came time to continue the temporary restraining order, the complaintant never showed up in court to continue the order.  The appellant admits she had a drug habit, inquired whether her family would be glad without her and that she should “jump off the bridge”.  She then was committed to the hospital on these occasions.

The majority of what follows is what was missing from the article and how Ms. Bourne had changed her life around.

  • She has been clean 7 years since these incidents.
  • Chairman Corradino states that based on evidence submitted, she looks to have changed her life around with letters of recommendation, newspaper articles about her work and an impressive resume.
  • After hospitalization, she sought treatment and got involved in church activities.
  • Had two children and didn’t want to raise them as an addicted mother.
  • Started attending college.  She had received her Associates, was currently 1 year away from her Bachelors degree and planned to pursue her Masters in social work.
  • She works full time as a home health worker and a social worker (while attending college and raising children of her own).
  • She started her own organization in Middletown to help adults and parents overcome situations like those she overcame.
  • She was involved in a school program helping parents and children improve literacy.
  • She received a prestigious grant for her social work from the William Caspar Graustein Fund.

When you look at the incidents of the younger Ms. Bourne with the person that was at her permit denial hearing, you indeed see two very different women.  Look at the HUGE list of accomplishments (somehow, absent from the media reports).  The board saw SEVEN years of clean conduct and nothing but positive change.

The BFPE deliberated and six members voted unanimously to grant her a permit.

One should really wonder, how did the media get the information regarding the permit denial?  Politics.  There are several bills being discussed to dissolve the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners. If this were to happen, citizens would have no recourse but a very costly process in the court system.  It would overburden the court system with close to 500 or more cases a year.  Most judges have no experience with firearms, all members of the board are very experienced with firearms.  Board members are volunteers and the only paid staff is one part time administrative person and expenses (copies, mailing, etc.).  Those expenses cost the state around $80,000. a year (a quick look at the math shows the state collects over $2,520,000 per year in pistol permit fees).  The BFPE board appointments come from government agencies (including a Department of Environmental Protection Colonel), governor appointees and two are from gun clubs.  The board is made up of seven members (six voted in this case).   The board composition is well balanced.

Some municipalities and the State Special Licensing and Firearms Unit have issues with the BFPE.  When they do not follow state statutes, the BFPE can overturn wrongful denials and revocations.  Just look at the towns I have collected information from on this site.  A large number of towns simply do not follow the law when issuing permits and the BFPE is the only recourse a citizen may have to correct this abuse.  Some towns violations are so egregious, a person could lose their place of residence or employment if they sign such harmful “hold harmless” agreements (not required by law).

As someone that attends these hearings, I have seen people denied permits for extremely trivial arrests.  One for a pack of batteries stolen in the mid eighties with NO interaction since that time with law enforcement.  One for a drunk driving incident IN THE SIXTIES with no further interaction with law enforcement.  It’s not uncommon to see a town abuse it’s authority over an anti-gun bias.  In these cases, the BFPE excels at making sure these abuses are corrected.  The board is also very firm and I’ve seen plenty of denials.  Many from what I have observed to be trivial given the weight of the case.  But, they have been fair and impartial.

I’m still left to wonder.  Who tipped off the media?  Middletown PD for being angry over their “authority” being overturned?  The state Special Licensing and Firearms Unit over their decisions being continually overturned?  I think there is indeed an agenda here given the political climate, especially post Sandy Hook.  Call me a skeptic.

7 Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Nice work. Thank you!

  2. Colin McEnroe says

    What about the arrests in 2003 and 2004?

    • Jonathan says

      Colin,

      The arrests were not convictions and even Middletown said they had NOTHING to do with the denial.

  3. K says

    Those details were not absent from the article. Her studies, church activities, and recovery from addicition were all included. Fact remains, she brandished a gun in a children’s entertainment forum in a state that less than 2 months ago witnessed the slaughter of children in school. This is where the outrage came from, and it is valid.

    • Jonathan says

      They were indeed absent from the articles I read. They focused on the all the negative, but nothing that was presented to the board. And, if you read what I started with, her permit will be revoked for what she did.

  4. Vance Fisher says

    March 29th. What will happen now? I caught a very bfrief comment on the news that she had a court appearance on Monday. Nothing yet on paper on TV news. What’s up?

  5. Andy says

    What about the nice big sign on the front door that says no firearms or weapons?