Millstone Township, New Jersey – -(Ammoland.com)- An Army veteran father says State Police tried to confiscate his firearms without a court order or warrant just because his son was overheard discussing school shooting news with a classmate.
Police said their visit was sparked by a conversation that Leonard Cottrell Jr.'s 13-year-old son had had with another student at the school. Cottrell said he was told his son and the other student were discussing security being lax and what they would have to do to escape a school shooting at Millstone Middle School.
The conversation was overheard by another student, who went home and told his parents, and his mother panicked. The mom then contacted the school, which contacted the State Police, according to Cottrell.
The visit from the troopers came around 10 p.m. on June 14, 2018, Cottrell said, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy signed several gun enforcement bills into law.
After several hours, Cottrell said police agreed not to take the guns but to allow him to move them to another location while the investigation continued.
“They had admitted several times that my son made no threat to himself or other students or the school or anything like that,” he said.
Cottrell said he made it very clear to the police that he was “not going to willingly give up my constitutional rights where there's no justifiable cause, no warrants, no nothing.”
The troopers searched his son's room and found nothing, Cottrell said.
“To appease everybody, I had my firearms stored someplace else,” he said. “That way, during the course of the investigation, my son doesn't have access to them and it's on neutral ground and everything and everybody's happy.”
Major Brian Polite, a spokesperson for the New Jersey State Police, stated that the troopers that conducted the investigation determined there was no need for the weapons to be seized. He also said he could not comment on whether the incident was related to the new gun laws.
“In the Garden State, the usual approach is to confiscate first and ask questions later, and victims of this approach often don't know their rights. In this case, the victim pushed back and confiscation was avoided — but the circumstances surrounding the incident are outrageous. A student expressing concern over lack of security is not a reason to send police to the student's home — but it might be a reason to send police to the school to keep students and teachers safe” said Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and a member of the NRA board of directors.
Cottrell said if the school had contacted him and talked about what had happened instead of going to the police first, “it would have been worked out right then and there.” He said he also would have understood if he'd gotten a call from the State Police to learn more, instead of the late night visit to his home.