JayG used to refer to Massachusetts as the Volksrepublik in his old blog Marooned. It was a snarky take on life in a very liberal state with an overbearing government. Volksrepublik derives from the German for People’s Republic which is a term often used by Communist or otherwise authoritarian states.
Though East Germany, officially Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR, was merely a “democratic republic” and not a “people’s republic, it did have the Volkshammer, the Volksarmee, and the Volkspolizei. Respectively they were the People’s Chamber legislature, the National People’s Army or their military, and the People’s Police or the national state police. The DDR also had the Staatssicherheitsdienst aka the Stasi. This was the secret police agency meant to repress any dissent. The Stasi encouraged and made extensive use of mass surveillance. This meant neighbor spying on neighbor and children spying on parents all with the purpose of reporting deviations to the secret police.
Bear this history in mind when you hear the story of Stephen Nichols, 84, of Tisbury, Massachusetts. It is a small town on Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Nichols is a Korean War veteran, a former officer with the Tisbury Police Department, a former court official, a former constable, and now a former school crossing guard.
I say former school crossing guard because a waitress at Linda Jean’s Restaurant in Oak Bluffs overheard his complaints about a school resource officer, misinterpreted them, and then reported him to the Tisbury Police.
Nichols said he was unimpressed with the Tisbury School resource officer’s alleged trips to Xtra Mart to get coffee when children came to school in the morning. While dining at Linda Jean’s a couple of weeks ago, Nichols said he told a friend about this and suggested somebody could “shoot up the school” in that officer’s absence, which he described as “leaving his post.”
Nichols said the waitress made a complaint to Tisbury Police about what she overheard and on the strength of that, (Tisbury PD 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 said he has been licensed for firearms since 1958.
He said he didn’t receive any paperwork or receipts for the seizure of his guns, either.
The Stasi would be so proud of that anonymous waitress as well as the reaction of the police.
The story goes to note that the both Mark Hanover who owns Linda Jean’s and Andy Marcus who was having coffee with Mr. Nichols assert no threat was made. Mr. Nichols merely thought it irresponsible that the school resource officer would leave his post to get coffee. Only one person construed it as a threat and the police ran with that.
This is a reprehensible situation. You have an elderly widower now left defenseless, children were put at risk pulling the crossing guard in the middle of his shift, and a man’s reputation is sullied based upon an overheard comment that was misunderstood.
The responses of the Tisbury Police Department and the Tisbury Town Administrator were classic bureaucratic evasiveness. They refused to talk about it because it was “a personnel matter.”
Now think about this situation in light of the push for red flag laws. Instances like Mr. Nichols will become more common and with more tragic consequences. In this case you had an elderly man who was not a threat to anyone, who loves kids, and who didn’t even carry outside the home. What if it had been a disturbed person triggered to violence by having his or her firearms removed. They are still on the street, they didn’t get the help they needed, and they are only down one tool out of many with which they can commit a violent attack.