The Guam Police Department disclosed it "recently" granted a drug defendant a license to carry a concealed firearm.

On Wednesday, the Office of the Attorney General filed felony charges against Steven Michael Gerard McDonald, 31, accusing him of multiple instances of possessing crystal methamphetamine in 2020.

His first arrest, on Aug. 14, 2020, initially was for "several traffic violations," according to a magistrate report, but also yielded "18.7 grams of suspected crystal methamphetamine, a substantial amount of U.S. currency (around $1,200 mostly in $10 and $20 denominations), and drug paraphernalia indicative of distribution."

Ten days later, police officers discovered more meth in McDonald's vehicle, court documents state, without disclosing the circumstances in which the defendant's vehicle was searched. In September 2020, McDonald was transported to his residence during a follow-up interview with officers. He allegedly admitted using and having "ice" at his house in Agana Heights. During the visit, he retrieved a "small Ziploc baggie" of a substance later confirmed to be crystal meth, according to court documents.

The new case against McDonald, filed Jan. 19, covers alleged possession of an amphetamine-based controlled substance on or about Aug. 20, 2020; a similar alleged offense on Sept. 14, 2020; and a third and similar alleged offense on Sept. 21, 2020.

The charges initially filed against McDonald at a police department office on Jan. 18 alleged possession of a controlled substance the day of his arrest. But amended charges filed an hour later removed the reference to drug possession the day of his arrest.

By the time he was arrested in relation to his previous alleged crimes, McDonald had obtained official approval to carry a firearm, despite him being under investigation for drug-related activities.

"GPD notes that defendant recently, and legally, obtained his concealed carry license and a 9 mm handgun," prosecutor Katherine Nepton wrote in a declaration supporting the case.

What the application states

According to GPD's concealed firearms license application, which is posted on its website, applicants must provide yes or no answers to seemingly disqualifying questions, including:

• Do you suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a weapon or firearm?

• Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

• Have you ever been committed for the abuse of a controlled substance?

• Have you ever been committed to a mental institution under Guam law or similar laws of any other state?

• Have you had adjudication withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony?

• Are you currently prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by any provision of Guam law or federal law?

While not specifically explaining what the answers would result in, applicants are cautioned that providing false information on the document is punishable by arrest and being ineligible for a firearms license for 10 years.

Local law, however, also provides that no Guam resident "presently charged with information or indictment" of a felony within the United States shall have a firearms identification card issued.

The ID is a prerequisite to receiving a license to carry a concealed firearm, along with being over the age of 21, demonstrating "competency" with a firearm and submitting to a federal background check.

As of press time Thursday, GPD did not provide responses to questions from The Guam Daily Post on what specific conditions it looks for when disapproving firearms license applications, and what unilateral or discretionary authority the chief of police, who approves or disapproves these requests, had when considering McDonald's post-arrest application

The OAG told the Post that, due to the pandemic, drug cases were not being prosecuted as quickly as before, in order to accommodate closures and limited services from the local court system, and a limited amount of space at Department of Corrections facilities to hold detainees awaiting trial.

The timing of bringing drug charges also can be affected by diversion programs that allow defendants to forgo criminal trials when seeking drug treatment, OAG spokesperson Carlina Charfauros said, without speaking specifically about any ongoing criminal case.

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