On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner, Yannotti and Chambers.
Nicholas C. Novello appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on August 31, 2009, which upheld the denial of his application for a permit to purchase a handgun and a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC). We affirm.
In January 2009, Novello submitted an application for a permit to purchase a handgun and FPIC to the Police Department of the Township of Scotch Plains, which conducted an investigation of the matter. By letter dated March 11, 2009, Brian T. Mahoney, the Chief of Police, informed Novello that his application was denied because "issuance of [the] permit is not in the interest of public health, safety and welfare." Novello filed an appeal to the Law Division, which conducted an evidentiary hearing on the appeal.
At the hearing, Novello's ex-wife, Maria Pissucci (Pissucci), testified that she and Novello divorced in 2006. She stated that, on one occasion, she and Novello argued. According to Pissucci, Novello became angry at times, slammed doors with force and caused damage.
Pissucci also testified that she told the detective who was investigating Novello's application that she was concerned and afraid that Novello might obtain a gun. She explained that the reason for her concern and fear was "the past abuse" and a threat Novello made around in Christmas, 2008. According to Pissucci, Novello stated that his stomach was "turned" by the idea of her having a boyfriend and he was going to get a gun.
Novello testified that he married Pissucci in November 2003 and filed for divorce in July 2005. He acknowledged that he and Pissucci argued at times. He admitted that, on one occasion, he slammed a door and a piece of the door stop "snapped off."
Novello also presented testimony from Donald James Franklin Ph.D. (Dr. Franklin), who was qualified as an expert in the field of psychology. Dr. Franklin testified that he administered certain psychological tests to Novello and the test results did not indicate that Novello was suffering from any psychological disorder. Dr. Franklin also testified that the test results did not indicate "any psychological issues related to anger that were outside of the normal range."
On cross examination, Dr. Franklin acknowledged that he did not know whether Novello broke a door after an argument with his wife but acknowledged that if Novello had broken the door, that would be an example of anger. Dr. Franklin also acknowledged that Pissucci had a fear of her husband owning or maintaining a handgun but stated that he did not have an opinion as to whether her fear was reasonable.
After hearing argument from counsel for the parties, the court rendered an opinion from the bench. The court noted that Pissucci's behavior probably contributed "to the situation." The court found that Novello's relationship with Pissuci involved "a great deal of acrimony" and was "very argumentative[.]" The court stated that Novello and Pissucci trigger each other into verbal arguments.
They trigger each other into losing their temper[s]. They trigger each other so that doors are slammed. They trigger each other so that doors are slammed and broken. They trigger each other so that the wife is now fearful [that] if he gets a gun... she is going to be killed.
The trial judge stated that it was difficult for him to determine whether Novello had actually threatened to kill Pissucci if she dated someone else. The judge also stated that, while Novello said that he wanted to obtain a gun to protect himself in Scotch Plains, there were "very little ...