Connecticut police seized 81 guns from the home of a retired police officer after the police received a tip that the man had allegedly threatened to burn down his house and kill himself, The Washington Post reported.
John McGuire's wife had recently died from dementia. His only daughter died of cancer in 2015. And he was recently diagnosed with melanoma.
When police showed up at McGuire's door with a search warrant, he tried to explain that it was all a misunderstanding.
The 76-year-old, who had spent two years as his wife's primary caregiver, had made the despairing comment to a medical technician who'd come to take away his wife's hospital bed.
"She wanted me to go with her," McGuire remembered telling the technician. “What else do I have to lose?”
Hours later, the police were at his door.
What did the search warrant say?
According to the Post, the top of the warrant read: “Person Posing Risk to Self or Others.”
Probable cause: “McGuire stated to a medical technician that . . . he was going to kill himself by burning his house down and blowing his head off with a revolver.”
It also stated that McGuire had “38 or more” firearms registered to his name.
And the purpose of the search was to “Take any and all firearms to prevent imminent personal injury.”
So, what happened?
McGuire, who retired about 20 years ago, asked if he was under arrest. The police told him that he was not.
When he asked if he'd broken any laws, the officers said he had not.
He was not accused of a crime and not being investigated.
McGuire allowed the officers into his home, and they soon began carrying out his massive 50-year collection of guns. He first started collecting them when he was in the Army.
As the police continued to search his home, another officer drove him to a hospital for a voluntary mental health evaluation.
Finally, that evening he returned home with a prescription for antidepressants and a booklet of "Tips for Self Care."
At home, he found a three-page list of the guns taken from his home.
“Obviously there’s the sentimental value, but this is also a major part of my savings,” McGuire said later that week to a lawyer and friend who took his case.
The cops also left 19 bottles of his wife's medication on the kitchen table.
Now McGuire, who could barely remember the last time he'd fired a gun, had to prove he wasn't a threat to himself or anyone else.
“Pills, knives, ropes, belts, cars — there are so many other ways, if I really wanted to do it,” he said.
The self-care booklet suggested asking for support as a way to take back control of his life.
So, he picked up his phone and called his oldest friend, Rich DeLorge, to come and get him.
“You only bring in the courts if it’s the absolute last resort,” McGuire told DeLorge after they were in the car. “If it had been me on the other side of that door, no way would I have started seizing property. I would have sat the guy down, bought him a cup of coffee, maybe asked about his family, checked up on how he was doing.”
“It’s not about people anymore,” DeLorge said. “It’s all about rules and regulations.”
“Maybe I was just blowing off steam,” McGuire said. “Maybe I’d been through hell for the last two years. They ever stop and think about that?”
“So you collect guns. What’s the big deal?” DeLorge said.
“I don’t bother anybody,” McGuire said. “I don’t break the law. I don’t even drink. And then they come and do this to me at the worst possible time.”
Did he get his guns back?
Later that month, his attorney Chuck Norris attended the hearing at the courthouse in Norwich.
McGuire, who knew almost everyone there, decided not to attend in person. He wasn't ready for the condolences.
The elderly man asked Norris to relay a message to the judge: being without his guns makes him feel "stressed, vulnerable and at risk" and he apologized for "saying something dumb."
“This is a good man who’s gone through an incredibly difficult time,” Norris told the court.
The prosecutor agreed McGuire's comment was likely situational.
The judge reviewed McGuire's file and made his ruling.
“The guns are to be returned immediately to John McGuire,” the judge said.