Thrift store asks customer to take gun outside, companion complains


LACONIA — A recent incident at the thrift store and food pantry operated by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul on Union Avenue threw the conflict between the right to carry a firearm and the right to private property into stark relief.

A nurse, caring for a 5-year-old disabled boy in a wheelchair and openly bearing a holstered firearm, entered the store. According to Erika Johnson, president, "A couple of our customers freaked out." She said she told the woman that the customers were upset and that firearms are not permitted in the store, then asked her to take the gun to her car and return without it. Johnson said that the woman had walked to the store and had no place to safely store the firearm.

"She did not complain," Johnson said. "She was very nice."

Johnson said she called the Police Department and spoke with an officer, who assured her that she is entitled to exclude firearms from the store.

Capt. Matt Canfield confirmed that in New Hampshire, which is among 28 "open carry" states, no license is required or any restriction placed on an individual's right to openly carry a loaded firearm in public spaces. At the same time, owners of private property otherwise open to the public, may lawfully exclude firearms from their premises.

Soon afterward, the woman's companion, Randy Comeau, in letter to The Laconia Daily Sun, which appears on page 6, wrote that "It saddens me that ignorant and judgmental people discriminate against those who would put themselves in harm's way to protect them." Comeau said Tuesday that he is a former military policeman and corrections officer, with 10 years experience in law enforcement, who is thoroughly familiar with the laws governing firearms. He was not present when the incident occurred, but noted that the nurse was "exercising her Second Amendment right and carrying a firearm, which she is highly trained and permitted to carry."

Comeau said Tuesday that the couple visits the thrift store regularly — "at least once a week" — and, although armed, had never been asked to leave before. Nor, he said, was a notice prohibiting firearms in the store posted. He acknowledged that just as individuals have a constitutional right to openly carry a firearm, so a private property owner has a right to prohibit firearms on their property. But, he said "If you don't want them in your store, put a sign on the door."

Some champions of the Second Amendment claim that for a private property owner whose premises are otherwise open to the public to exclude an armed person would be an act of illegal discrimination on a par with refusing to serve someone because of their race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. Comeau stopped short of this position, but pointed out that barring firearms amounts to "taking away your right to protect yourself."

Johnson said that following the incident, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has posted a notice at the thrift store that firearms are not allowed on the premises.

State gives $650,000 in tax credits toward Colonial Theatre


LACONIA — The New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority has awarded the Belknap Economic Development Council $650,000 in tax credits towards financing the renovation and restoration of the Colonial Theatre.

Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said Tuesday that the award matched what was budgeted for this component of the $15 million financial package that will fund the project.

"We knew that the Community Development Finance Authority received 62 applications for more than $15 million from the competition," he said, explaining that with $5 million in tax credits available "We knew that it would be a very competitive process."

Altogether, 17 nonprofit organizations were awarded $5.325 million, with the award to the Belknap Economic Development Council representing the largest single award. Slattery said that the council will go through a bank to sell the tax credits to private investors.

New Market tax credits, along with tax credits awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior for historic restoration, and grants from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, New Hampshire Community Development Block Grant program and United States Environmental Protection Agency will also provide funding for the project.

Meanwhile, Slattery said that the capital campaign, which aims to raise $2 million from private businesses, civic organizations and individual donors is gathering momentum. He indicated that announcements of significant contributions would be forthcoming.

Meredith man arrested in drug raid


LACONIA — A Meredith man is being held on $50,000 cash or corporate surety bail after being arrested for several counts of sales of heroin during a week-long selling spree in early August.

08-17 Michael Veinot

Michael J. Veinot, 43, of 119 Livingston Road was arrested early Monday morning at his home by the members of the state Drug Task Force and the Meredith Police.

He faces three separate counts of selling at least four grams of heroin to a cooperating individual who was working with the drug task force and one charge of conspiracy to sell heroin.

Affidavits obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court said the task force began its investigation of Veinot on July 27.

The cooperating individual knew Veinot and his wife and told police he/she met the couple through a mutual friend. He/she said they initially purchased a few 30 mg oxycodone pills from them.

Two months later, the individual randomly came across Veinot and his wife and was told by Veinot that he was looking for someone who could sell larger quantities of heroin for him.

With that information in hand, members of the task force arranged for four purchases of heroin, three of which were for amounts greater than four grams. One transaction was allegedly conducted by Veinot's wife but, to date, she has not been charged.

In court Tuesday, Belknap County Prosecutor R.J. Meurin asked for $50,000 cash-only bail, telling the court that Veinot had prior convictions in New Hampshire for felony criminal threatening and burglary in 2010 and 2011 as well as some minor drug convictions in 2006 in New York.

He said he considered Veinot a flight risk because of his New York connections.

Meurin added that Veinot presents a danger to the community in that at least three of the four sales were of relatively large amount of heroin and that it was clear he was making money from these sales. He also requested a source-of-funds hearing to determine that, if Veinot posted bail, the money didn't come from illegal activity.

Veinot's attorney Sheldon "Steve" Mirkin said his client is sick and needs to be in rehabilitation. He asked for $100,000 personal recognizance bail and $1,000 cash with the stipulation that Veinot's bail be reduced to personal recognizance provided he gets into a secure rehab facility.

During a brief recess, called so Mirkin could get the criminal record for his client from the prosecution, Veinot spent most of his time with his head down on the defendant's table.

Mirkin said Veinot works full time, has medical insurance and is the sole support of his 9-year-old child.

Presiding Justice Jame's O'Neill ordered $50,000 cash or corporate surety bail. Should Veinot post bail, additional conditions are a source-of-funds hearing, an order that he not leave New Hampshire, that he sign a waiver of extradition, and that he report to the Belknap County Restorative Justice team for bail supervision and random drug and alcohol screening.