An 84-year-old retired police officer and Korean War veteran, who was working as a school crossing guard, had his legally-owned guns confiscated by the police, all because of an alleged misunderstanding.
The Tisbury Police Department relieved Stephen Nichols, a resident of Tisbury, Massachusetts, from his duties as a crossing guard and confiscated his legally-owned guns because of complaints from a waitress at a local diner.
Nichols was having a conversation with a friend in a local diner called Linda Jean’s on September 18, according to the Martha’s Vinyard Times. He was criticizing the Tisbury school resource officer for making trips to get coffee while children were arriving in the morning. Nichols reportedly told his friend that someone could “shoot up the school” in the officer’s absence.
Stephen Nichols criticized an SRO for leaving his post. A waitress overheard and took the conversation out of context.
Nichols, 84yo vet & crossing guard, was fired, deemed a “threat” and had his guns confiscated. He’d been carrying for 60yrs. #RedFlagLawshttps://t.co/3sLUFaTkBs
— The Red-Headed Libertarian™️ (@TRHLofficial) October 13, 2019
A waitress at the diner apparently overheard parts of that conversation and and made a complaint to the Tisbury police two days later. Based on the waitress’s complaint, Police Chief Mark Saloio and another officer relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties in the midst of performing them, drove to his house, and seized his guns and firearms license. The confiscated guns were then turned over to Nichols’ son-in-law.(RELATED: Your Favorite Republican Politicians Are Being Pressured Into Supporting Red Flag Laws For Stricter Gun Control)
“He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,” Nichols said of Saloio. Additionally, Nichols claimed that he never received any paperwork or receipts for the confiscation of his gun license or his firearms.
When asked by the Martha’s Vinyard Times to comment, Saloio said “there’s nothing that I can legally discuss about the matter. Period.” The police department has also refused to release the police report from the investigation citing the “personnel” exemption of the public records law.
Tisbury School Principal John Custer said he was familiar with Nichols as a crossing guard, but when asked if he knew of Nichols’ situation, Custer responded by saying crossing guards are “hired, trained and scheduled, entirely by the police department.”
Nichols has no criminal record, had never been accused of threatening a school, and never had a firearms violation.
Due to an outcry from the community, Nichols was reinstated to his twice-daily post at the crosswalk on October 15, according to the Martha’s Vinyard Times.
Following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, several states began passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders, commonly known as Red Flag Laws. Depending on the state, the laws allow family members and law enforcement to petition a state court judge to issue an order that confiscates the guns of an individual who they believe poses a threat to the safety of others or themselves. (RELATED: Graham Announces Gun Confiscation ‘Red Flag’ Legislation Backed By Trump)
The proposals have begun to receive bipartisan support, but have been criticized by gun rights groups for the potential of confiscation without due process.
At this point, seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed such laws.