Dozens of guns turned over to Nanaimo police

NANAIMO - Cache of restricted firearms found in old desk turned over to RCMP.

Police are tallying up the take from a recent provincial gun amnesty program that ran throughout October.

All told, RCMP members collected 44 firearms turned in by Nanaimo-area residents. About half of the firearms were rifles and shotguns and the remaining half were hand guns, said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

O’Brien said 13 of the weapons turned in were from a homeowner in north Nanaimo who found them in a hidden cache.

“He’d been in the house a couple of years and several pieces of furniture had been left behind and when he went to the desk he realized there was a hidden compartment in one of the drawers, underneath, and he found 13 handguns,” O’Brien said. “He’d bought the house from an older gentleman and he believed they were from a gun collection and he had just forgotten about them.”

The homeowner considered taking legal possession of the guns, which included models by Beretta, Colt and Mauser, but because of their short barrel lengths all of them are prohibited weapons in Canada, he opted to turn them over to police.

“They all have less than a 104-millimetre barrel, which is basically four inches, so they’re classified as prohibited,” O’Brien said. “All were in working condition and about 30 to 40 years old or older. None were loaded.”

Police will check the guns’ serial numbers to ensure none were used in illegal activities. Many of the firearms collected were turned in by owners who brought them from other provinces when they moved to the region.

“People who moved from the Prairies – Saskatchewan, Alberta – they lived in rural areas and they had firearms in their homes,” O’Brien said. “They have no need for them now or they had people in house who hunted, but don’t hunt anymore and they didn’t want the guns to fall into the hands of criminals.”

Hundreds of rounds of ammunition were also turned in.

The response is far smaller this year, compared to the last gun amnesty offered in June 2013 when more than 140 unwanted firearms were handed over to Nanaimo RCMP.