Chelmsford attorney Thomas Kennedy helps federal corrections officer get gun license back

An article that appeared in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly

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Thomas D. Kennedy

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Lowell, MA 01852
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At some point, Chelmsford attorney Thomas D. Kennedy would like to see the Legislature revisit whether it really makes sense to give local police chiefs so much power to deny or suspend a gun license under G.L.c. 140.

“There’s too much of a concentration of power in one office,” he says.

But in the meantime, Kennedy says he’s pleased to have given his client, Joseph Angiuoni, the peace of mind of restoring his right to carry a large capacity firearm.

Angiuoni had his license revoked by the Tewksbury police chief on June 24, 2021, after Angiuoni’s stepdaughter obtained a 10-day restraining order against him.

The restraining order expired, and authorities never arrested, charged or indicted Angiuoni based on his stepdaughter’s initial report.

Nonetheless, Chief Ryan M. Columbus and the Tewksbury Police Department retained possession of not only Angiuoni’s license but also his firearm, which he had voluntarily surrendered upon receipt of the chief’s letter.

Angiuoni, a federal corrections officer, has a heightened interest in being armed, as people with such jobs are frequently targets for retribution, Kennedy wrote in the memorandum of law he submitted in support of his appeal in Lowell District Court.

Moreover, the First Step Act, passed during the Trump administration, included the Lt. Osvaldo Albarti Correctional Officers Self Protection Act, which references an unarmed federal corrections officer who was murdered on his way home from work.

A related Trump executive order established a national policy “to remove any undue obstacle preventing current or retired Federal law enforcement officers from carrying a concealed firearm.”

While a Tewksbury lieutenant testified at a hearing that Angiuoni’s license had been suspended for his family’s safety, his wife and adult daughter, who attended the hearing, felt less safe because of the department’s actions, Kennedy told the court.

As for why the chief held tight to Angiuoni’s license, even after the basis for the restraining order evaporated, Kennedy suggests it was due to “his dislike of the content of the underlying report” and “frustration” borne out of having no other remedy to address it.

“We had to really draw the court’s attention to the fact that this was arbitrary and capricious,” Kennedy says. Kennedy notes that, under current law, an applicant who has had his gun license denied or suspended faces a daunting burden, financially and otherwise, to challenge a police chief’s decision, with uncertain prospects for success.

“In most instances, District Court judges are reluctant to overturn decisions made by chiefs of police,” he says.

But here, Judge Ellen M. Caulo agreed that the decision to suspend Angiuoni’s license was arbitrary and capricious once the stepdaughter recanted her allegations and the restraining order expired. “Furthermore, there is nothing in the record to support a reasonable nexus between the recanted allegations and a risk to public safety,” she writes.

Especially in Massachusetts, the rights of gun owners can be an unpopular topic, Kennedy recognizes. “But what a lot of people fail to understand is that it is a constitutional right, not a privilege, like a driver’s license,” Kennedy says. “It’s something the government has to be careful with.”

The police chief’s attorney, Daniel C. Brown of Feeley & Brown in Walpole, had not responded to requests for comment as of Lawyers Weekly’s deadline.

Article by Kris Olson and was published on April 15, 2022.

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