I had a little chin wag with Brent Carlton yesterday. The president of comm2a.com (Commonwealth Second Amendment) and I discussed the case of Stan Sokolowski, a Lowell gun collector whose guns were stolen from his vault. The police investigation of the theft quickly became a police investigation of Mr. Sokolowski. Well, slowly, actually. The po-po interrogated Mr. S. for seven hours. Whilst checking out the crime scene, the cops found hand-loading supplies [allegedly] in excess of the Massachusetts Fire Marshall’s regs. They charged Sokolowski with illegal manufacture of explosives. Needless to say, the State yanked his firearms ID card; Sokolowski is now a gunless gun collector. Unarmed. So many important lessons here . . .
First, it’s a repeat of our last SDT: you are not the good guy and the cops are not your friends. Not even when they are. Even as they pull your fat from the fire, even during the course of a “routine” investigation, they can get all hinky about your firearms. Or just nose around generally and find something to use against you. And then revoke your gun rights.
This is especially true in Massachusetts, where vague yet stringent firearms safety storage laws punish anyone with a firearm that isn’t secured in a locked container (that must ALSO be secured) or under their direct control (i.e. holstered). Like the Bay Stater about to head to the range, but hadn’t put his guns into a container when the po-po stopped by to say hello (and didn’t believe a word he was sayin’).
If the police want to enter/search your house after a negligent discharge (heaven forfend), or any other issue short of a defensive gun use (or some other emergency) in the home, the answer is “No. Not without a warrant.” The neighbors’ wagging tongues are a far less dangerous eventuality than what could befall you during a police visit.
The police may, for example, see a gun safe full of guns; making you a “gun nut” to a prosecutor or jury. They may see an almost bottle of Jack Daniels, not knowing (or caring) exactly when it was drained. What looks to you like a law-abiding household can easily be painted as a den of iniquity.
By the same token, if the local constabulary is stopping by to discuss something seemingly unrelated to your activities, don’t invite them into your house unless you really want to. Mind if we come in? Well, yes, actually. What’s this about?
And if you do let the police in, don’t let them wander off. You never know what they might “happen” to see.
[Note: I don’t blame cops for their inquisitiveness. They’re just doing their job: busting perps. Chances are they don’t even know your full constitutional rights, much less worry about encroaching upon them. And you need to do your job: protecting yourself and your family from the possibility of legal “misunderstandings.”]
Of course, the other lesson here is STFU. Even though he was a victim of a crime—a view the Lowell police no doubt initially encouraged—Mr. Sokolowski should have never agreed to a police “interview” without a lawyer present.
And another: know the law. Ignorance is no excuse under the law. Don’t take the word of some self-appointed internet expert (ahem) on the firearms laws in your state. Read the actual statutes.
Still, the question remains: how should Mr. Sokolowski have handled the police investigation into the firearms theft? As carefully as possible. As a gun owner in a gun grabbing state, he should have known that paranoia was the only sensible option. That sucks but there it is.