July 24, 2015
As a young PR man for NRA more than 35 years ago, I was chauffeuring three members of the board of directors from a function in the nation's capital. One of them asked how many guns I owned. I answered that I had about a half-dozen, but that I hoped one day to have 50, which was about as many as I could imagine owning.
The first director, a doctor from Florida who was on the Pistol Committee, laughed out loud and said he had more than 400. One of the duo in the back seat chimed in that he had more than 700. The third man, a former president of the organization, scoffed and numbered his hoard at more than 1,100, though he cautioned that if you know the number exactly, you don't have that many.
That was my introduction to the notion that you could own a lot of guns. A few years later, a friend who worked on a California gun magazine wisely moved to another state. The moving bill included 1,200 (he estimated) guns and 10 tons of ammo.
I was reminded of that by the recent discovery of a mysterious dead man and his cache of firearms and ammo. The deceased, who remains nameless but who referred to himself as "Bob Smith," was found dead and decomposing in an SUV near his home in tony Pacific Palisades.
Police who went to secure his house discovered more than 1,200 guns and two tons of ammo, to the vast alarm of the Los Angeles Times and local TV channels. There was much speculation about show he had acquired such a huge "arsenal," especially given his claims to have been working for some secret government agency.
Now, I suspect most SGN readers, paraphrasing Dr. Samuel Johnson, would say there are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting guns. There were no indications whatever that "Smith" was running guns to Mexico or planning to overthrow the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. To judge from the photos, he had accumulated a large but quite unremarkable collection of all sorts of firearms, which the police were busy stacking like cordwood.
It is quite common here in Illinois to see an auction sale bill for the estate of some old farmer that includes 150-200 guns, and they often range from store-brand shotguns to AK-47s. To have more than 100 guns is no big accomplishment in most parts of the country, and I suspect there are a lot more collectors than you might think who have more than 1,000.
Having a whole lot of something is perfectly American. The late hotelier Bill Harrah had more than 1,100 cars. I attended an auction where the estate being sold consisted of 440 tractors, with implements and accessories by the ton. SGN advertisers like James D. Julia and Rock Island Auctions routinely liquidate collections of hundreds of guns.
Sorry, L.A. Times. The fact that "Smith" claimed to have swum to Catalina Island for the CIA is certainly odd, as is the fact that his girlfriend left his body in his car and traveled to Oregon. Having 1,200 guns is not.