An 84-year old retired police officer, military veteran, and school crossing guard in Massachusetts has had his firearms seized and was fired from his job after someone overheard a conversation at a diner and reported him as a threat to the local school.
Stephen Nichols says he was talking with a friend at a local restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard when the subject of the local school resource officer came up. Nichols was upset that the officer, in his opinion, was “leaving his post” by going to get coffee at a nearby convenience shop instead of remaining on campus to protect students, and said that somebody could “shoot up the school” in the officer’s absence. Based on nothing more than that simple remark, Nichols’ life was turned upside down and the Tisbury police have a lot of questions to answer.
Nichols said the waitress made a complaint to Tisbury Police about what she overheard and on the strength of that, 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 says never received any receipts acknowledging the seizure of his firearms either, and notes since he obtained his Massachusetts firearms license in 1958 he’s never had any issues until now.
Virtually every person who heard Nichols’ comment, with the exception of the waitress who complained, says there was nothing threatening about his statement. Far from expressing any intent to harm the students at the local school, Nichols’ was complaining that they were being left unprotected.
Nichols said he has 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. “I would never, ever, ever, harm a child,” he said.
Nichols lost his wife two years ago and values his crossing guard work as a connection to the outside world. “I just need something to do to get out of the house and I love the kids,” he said.
Thankfully, Nichols does have an attorney, and they’re appealing both the revocation of Nichols’ firearms license as well as his removal as a crossing guard. I hope they’re successful in righting this wrong. We do owe the chief in Tisbury a bit of gratitute, however, for such a great demonstration of the capricious nature of gun licensing laws in Massachusetts. You don’t have to be charged with a crime, much less convicted, to lose your right to keep and bear arms. No, all that’s necessary is for someone to misconstrue what you said, interpret it as a threat, and report your comment to the police. They’ll take it (and your guns) from there, no hearing necessary.
What happened to Stephen Nichols could happen to virtually any legal gun owner in the state of Massachusetts, because in Massachusetts the right to keep and bear arms isn’t treated as a right at all. Instead, it’s viewed by the law as a privilege to be doled out and taken away by local police chiefs, and while some might recognize the 2nd Amendment as protecting an individual right, it is clear that there are many who don’t think that at all. With little to no investigation or reason, they can strip you of your license and your firearms, and your only recourse is to engage in a lengthy and expensive appeals process. Thankfully Mr. Nichols is willing to make that engagement, but how many others won’t or can’t afford to do the same?
Shortly after posting the original story, the local paper on Martha’s Vineyard reported that Nichols has been reinstated as a crossing guard for the local school, but bizarrely, the police are apparently still revoking his firearm license.
Dan Larkosh, of the Edgartown firm Larkosh and Jackson, represents Nichols, and he was pleased Nichols was reinstated. Nevertheless he intends to file an appeal of the decision by Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio to seize guns owned by Nichols, as well as his license to carry.
Go get ’em, Mr. Larkosh. I find it unfathomable that after all this, the police chief hasn’t returned Stephen Nichols’ firearms and issued a groveling apology. It’s clear that would be the right thing to do. It’s a mystery as to why the chief hasn’t done it.