A Massachusetts man who was stripped of his gun license by his local police chief over a comment made at a local diner is now suing to get his guns and his firearms license returned to him. 84-year old Stephen Nichols was concerned about safety at a local school when he told a fellow diner at Linda Jean’s restaurant that someone could “shoot up the school” because the school safety officer was leaving campus while students were in class.
A waitress overheard the remark and informed police, which resulted in Nichols having his firearms and license taken from him by local police, as well as being temporarily suspended from his job as a crossing guard for the Tisbury schools.
Nichols said the waitress made a complaint to Tisbury Police about what she overheard and on the strength of that, [Tisbury Police Chief Mark] Saloio and another officer relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties while he was in the midst of performing them and subsequently drove to his home and took away his firearms license and guns.
“He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,” Nichols said of Saloio.
The confiscated guns were later turned over to Nichols’ son-in-law, Nichols told The Times.
Asked if he was given a letter or any paperwork for the seizure of his license, Nichols said,
“No he just told me to hand it over so I took it out of my wallet and handed it to him.”
Nichols was re-instated as a crossing guard shortly after the incident made headlines in October, but as the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports, Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio is still holding on to Nichols’ firearms and his gun license.
The appeal calls Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio’s decision to revoke Nichols’ license and confiscate his firearms and ammunition “arbitrary and capricious.” Nichols was relieved from his job on Sept. 20 after a restaurant server alleged he uttered a threat to the Tisbury School. The same day, his Massachusetts Class A license was revoked, and his firearms and ammunition seized. His job was restored on Columbus Day, but the license, guns, and ammo haven’t been. Saloio told The Times the license is working its way through the state system, and he doesn’t anticipate problems with reissuing it.
It takes more than two months to “work through the state system” when someone’s rights are arbitrarily taken from them? That sounds like a problem. It also sounds like Massachusetts treats the right to keep and bear arms as as privilege. It also sounds like the police chief didn’t do his due diligence before taking Nichols’ guns and license after waitress Heather McCarthy reported to police that Nichols had threatened to shoot up the local school.
Saloio issued a revocation letter to Nichols shortly after McCarthy made her allegation, and before questioning Nichols.
“You are alleged to have made comments concerning being able to go in and ‘shoot up’ the elementary school,” the letter stated in part, “while conversing about our school resource officer’s schedule. In accordance with M.G.L. c.140, [s] 129D, you are required to turn in to the police department in the city/town in which you reside, without delay, your firearms license(s) and all firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, large-capacity feeding devices, and ammunition which you have in your possession or which are owned by you. Failure to do so is a criminal offense.”
Saloio told The Times he wrote the letter ahead of speaking to Nichols in order to compel Nichols to cooperate, and for the safety of his officers, essentially using the possibility of arrest as leverage to make sure guns were peacefully relinquished.
All that without ever talking to Nichols himself or even the other gentleman who was having a conversation with Nichols. Andy Marcus says he can’t understand why police never reached out to hear what he had to say, especially given the fact that his name appeared in the first news story about Nichols.
Marcus, who was never interviewed by police, said he believes McCarthy was eavesdropping on a conversation between Nichols and him: “Heather was right there when he was saying ‘Xtra Mart.’ I saw her turn her head.”
Marcus described the police ordeal Nichols went through and the public spotlight placed on him as “ridiculous.” He said Nichols had “less than no intent” of harming anyone: “He was actually standing up for the kids.”
The chief says he didn’t need to talk to any other witnesses, because Nichols wasn’t going to be criminally charged. Saloio also made a curious comment about the timeline of Nichols’ firearms being seized.
It was comments Nichols allegedly made about being a danger to himself that caused Nichols to be removed from his post and to have his guns seized, Saloio said.
“I can’t stress that enough,” he said.
[Nichols’ attorney Dan] Larkosh said the comment made by Nichols while police were at his home was misconstrued, and Nichols never posed a danger to himself.
In the timeline of events, Nichols had already had his license to carry firearms revoked and had already been pulled off crossing guard duty and replaced with a police officer when Saloio and Det. Max Sherman met Nichols at his house.
If the state of Massachusetts actually respected the right to keep and bear arms, Stephen Nichols wouldn’t have had to sue to get his Second Amendment rights restored, because they wouldn’t have been stripped from him in the first place. Bad laws lead to bad practices, like treating an 84-year old veteran, retired police officer, and beloved member of the community as a threat and stripping them of their rights before ever speaking to him, all because someone eavesdropping on a conversation misheard a comment.
I hope that Mr. Nichols’ suit is successful and he’s a legal gun owner again very soon. Sadly, while the abuse of Mr. Nichols’ Second Amendment rights should prompt changes in state law to protect gun owners, we all know that politicians in Boston are going to keep moving in the opposite direction instead.