An old truism is that you can learn a great deal about a man by snooping in his tackle box.
Years ago I wrote a humour piece about what I had learned about my Dad by untangling his tackle box after his death.
In recent years I have coined a new truism: that you never really know a man until you have looked into wherever it is he stores, hides, secures his firearms, be it a gun safe, between the floor or ceiling joists of his rec. room, or even the woodpile.
That thought first came to me when, only after calling a locksmith, the doors finally swung open, for the first time since his death, on the gun safe of an old friend, and I saw, among a couple of decent sporting shotguns and at least one sporting .22 rimfire rifle, a couple of black and ugly semi-automatic, semi-assault rifles, patterned after the fully-automatic assault rifles used in the wars of the world. “Why did a gentle, kindly, educated man, living in a placid neighbourhood in as safe a city as we have these days, think he needed these arms?” I remember thinking.
My friend’s agitated widow had contacted me about a notice from the government that her late husband’s fire-arms needed to be re-registered.
That sounded strange, so I asked to see a copy of the letter.
As I suspected, it was addressed to her husband, giving notice that his licence to possess firearms was about to expire and needed renewing.
Even though I have not practiced law for more than a decade, I explained that, as heir and executrix of the estate, she was probably in at least involuntary illegal possession of the firearms.
Neither she nor the grown children wished to go through the legal hoops most hunters must jump through to become legally entitled to possess these firearms, so the next question for me was one I hear over and over from people in like positions: “What do we do with them?”
We’ll leave the answer until I describe two more of the dozens of similar situations that have given rise to that same question.
Back when I was still practicing law, a partner asked if I could come down to the boardroom and look at some firearms and — possibly — estimate their value.
Present were my partner, two sweet elderly ladies and a modest pile of elongated packages wrapped in green garbage bags that they had transported from a considerable distance.
The packages, which I insisted they unwrap, contained firearms left by a deceased close relative for whom they acted as executrices. Only one item was of much interest or value: an old Belgium Browning semi-automatic .22 rimfire rifle in obviously fine condition, which I picked up to examine more closely.
Doing instinctively what my Dad had drummed into me since I was six, with the muzzle pointing in a safe direction, I worked the slide to ensure that that the firearm was unloaded. It wasn’t! A live round flipped out of the chamber and spun around on the table. My partner, no gun owner, but a former farm boy who knew about guns, blanched.
The ladies knew nothing about firearms, even that they had to have a licence to possess firearms. That they had managed to wrap the loaded rifle up and bring it all those miles to our boardroom without discharging it was yet another proof that the Lord (sometimes) protects the innocent.
The ladies said they would check to see if anyone in the family who had a possession licence wanted the firearms. If not, they asked, “how do we get rid of them?” In that case, as executrices, they would have to obtain fair value for them for the benefit of the estate, but that did not change my answer at all.
Most recently the question came as I was riding in the rig of a much younger good friend who no longer hunts nor target shoots and has received notice that he must renew his licence to possess, but really does not need nor care to. He added that in his collection are some probably valuable handguns given to him by a relative. Again, the question: “What can I do with the guns?”
Fortunately, for me, living where I do, the answer is the same for all these situations, no matter how many times I hear that same question: “Call Bud Haynes.”
Red Deer is home to Bud Haynes Auctions (403-347-5855), which claims to be the oldest established gun auction in Canada, and one of the finer in North America, I would add, Bud having sold firearms for me, to my total satisfaction.
I simply can’t count the number of people Bud himself has helped who found themselves suddenly in illegal possession of firearms or, simply wishing to dispose of firearms they no longer want.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.