Saturday, February 04, 2006

Why ban guns altogether when you can just let people collect them and then have them stolen by thieves?

40 guns stolen from collector
Pensioner robbed while in hospital
Largest handgun theft in memory
Feb. 4, 2006. 10:30 AM

Forty handguns including tiny Derringer-like pocket pistols discovered stolen from an Oshawa house yesterday could have disappeared anytime within the past 12 days, says the man who spent a lifetime collecting the weapons.

Ken Foster, 67, said he arrived home from hospital yesterday to discover the back door of his Front St. home kicked in and the gun and ammunition cabinets upstairs broken open and emptied.

"I was shocked," the pensioned gun collector told the Toronto Star in an interview at his home last night. "I'm never going to be able to replace them." Foster said the weapons, which he collected over a 56-year period, were all legally purchased, registered, and stored safely.

Asked if he was worried about the damage the stolen guns could do on the street, Foster replied, "Well, yes."

The incident is believed to be the biggest known theft of handguns in recent Ontario history.

Durham Region Police Det. Const. Ron Kapuscinski said there was nothing to set Foster's house apart, or to distinguish it as a gun collector's home.

"It doesn't appear to be targeted, and it's not the typical, `Look at me, I have handguns' kind of residence," Kapuscinski told the Star's Alwynne Gwilt. "And he's not the guy who'd go around telling people he had them."

In a statement, Durham police said, "The guns were locked up in the residence and storage charges against the homeowner are not anticipated."

The guns, all in working condition and some dating back to the early 1900s, were in a locked steel storage cabinet, Foster said, and ammunition for the handguns was stored separately in another locked steel cabinet.

A retired welder who travelled across Canada in his day working on nuclear plants, Foster said he made the awful discovery yesterday when he came home by taxi from hospital, where he'd spent the past six weeks being treated for a stroke.

Foster, who lost both legs four years ago because of complications from diabetes, struggled outside in his wheelchair, hailed a passer-by, and asked him to call police.

When Durham officers arrived at the house at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday and discovered what they were dealing with, Foster admitted, "they were upset."

Also missing was about $1,000 in change.

Foster said police spent from about noon until 5:30 p.m. dusting the residence for fingerprints and examining it for other clues that may have been left behind. A friend last checked the house about 12 days ago, Foster said, and found everything secure.

Foster, who said he was aware of the recent rash of gun-related crimes that has swept much of the Greater Toronto area, defended his ownership of the weapons.

"I have a right to own these guns," he said. "I paid for them with my own money. I registered them all. I kept them stored safely."

In December 2003, thieves broke into the public housing apartment of long-time Toronto gun instructor and collector Mike Hargreaves and made off with more than 32 handguns, machine guns and rifles from a locked gun cabinet.

Gun collector Lionel Weese returned to his Consecon, Ont., home Dec. 8 to find that thieves had stolen 23 handguns, including five powerful .45-cal. pistols. Weese, a tow truck driver, had been lured out of the house by a false call; the guns were stolen in his 20-minute absence.

Also last year Toronto lawyer Arthur Brown said 17 guns stored in his Parliament St. office in downtown Toronto were stolen. The theft was discovered when firefighters responding to a fire alarm found two containers of ammunition on the floor; police say one of Brown's guns has been recovered.

Although Durham police say Foster's house doesn't appear to have been targeted, police in Toronto say criminals are seeking out gun collectors and marking their houses and offices for later burglary.

It isn't difficult to determine where gun collectors live, investigators say, noting the addresses of private gun clubs are public, and anyone purchasing ammunition must log their name and address in store ledgers that are often left open on the counter. People can also be followed home from gun shows and shooting ranges.

And correspondence from the chief firearms officer for Ontario to gun owners is stamped on the front in bold letters from the "CHIEF FIREARMS OFFICE" alerting anyone who sees the mail that the recipient may be a gun collector.

Stolen guns have been used in a rash of shootings, robberies and killings across southern Ontario. Police say one of the most dramatic examples of the damage they can do came Sept. 16, when a gun battle involving one of the powerful Glock semi-automatic pistols stolen from Hargreaves' apartment left three men dead in and around a BMW parked behind a building at 75 Tandridge Cres. in Etobicoke.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I think the writer has a nice touch.

Trib said...

I like how they keep referring to them as "powerful." Perhaps they could work in an "annihilating" or "butchering." Future sentences could read: Misery befalleth those who stand in the way of the cruel Glock, destroyer of worlds. Otherwise, interesting article. It seems like they're really setting people up, though, when they make their gun ownership common knowledge.

Anonymous said...

How's this for frightening arsenal haul found by police in Queensland, Australia.

Anonymous said...