Federal District Court for Massachusetts
Challenge to the unlawful and the warrantless search and seizure of property belonging to the plaintiff.
Filed June 27, 2016
Storm v. Erickson
(See also Celona v. Erickson)
Eric Storm walked into the Gardner Police station in mid-November 2015 to renew his Massachusetts License to Carry Firearms prior to its December 4th expiration date. Despite his request to submit a renewal application before the expiration date of his license, Mr. Storm was told that the earliest available appointment was on December 13th, after the expiration date of his current license.
When Mr. Storm arrived for his appointment on December 13th, the licensing officer informed Mr. Storm that it was currently illegal for him to possess guns in his home because his license had expired nine days earlier. At the conclusion of the appointment, the licensing officer told Mr. Storm that two Gardner police officers would have to accompany him to his home and seize his firearms. Mr. Storm requested that a friend with a valid license take possession of those guns until such time as his new license was issued, but Gardner police refused. Without a search warrant and without the voluntary consent of Mr. Storm, those two Gardner police officers entered Mr. Storm’s home unlawfully and seized his guns.
When Gardner police finally issued Mr. Storm’s renewed license, they informed him he could take his guns back, save for a number of “pre-ban" large capacity magazines they falsely claimed were a violation of Massachusetts’s “Assault Weapons Ban.” As of the date this suit was filed, Gardner police have yet to return the balance of Mr. Storm’s property.
In this suit filed in the Federal District Court of Massachusetts, Mr. Storm is seeking monetary damages as a result of multiple constitutional violations by the Gardner police, including violating his Second Amendment rights by unlawfully seizing his guns and by refusing to accept his renewal application in a timely manner. Mr. Storm is also alleging that the Gardner police violated his Fourth Amendment rights as a result of the unlawful search of his home and seizure of his firearms. Finally, Mr. Storm claims a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process given the refusal of the Gardner police to return his lawfully-possessed property.
This failure by the Gardner Police Department to accept Mr. Storm’s renewal application in a timely manner was the sole catalyst for the parade of horribles that followed. Aside from seizing his guns as a result of the very delay they were responsible for creating, perhaps most troubling is the demand by Gardner Police that Mr. Storm prove a negative: That his magazines were not manufactured after September 1994. Given that so-called “pre-ban” magazines generally lack any markings noting their date of manufacture, this is a near-impossible task that unconstitutionally shifts the burden to Mr. Storm to prove his items are not unlawful to him to own and possess. The purpose of this case is to affirm that guns and gun-related items are no different from any other property that requires the government—not the citizen—to show their unlawful nature in order to deprive a citizen of his or her property.
This is the second time that Gardner police have been sued for unlawfully seizing the property of a Gardner resident. In October 2015 a similar suit (Celona v. Erikson) was filed against members of the Gardner Police Department alleging the same types of civil rights violations.
Mr. Storm is represented by attorney J. Steven Foley of Worcester, MA.