Hoover, Alabama sponsored an annual Hazardous Waste Day on April 24, 2017, an opportunity for residents to dispose of potentially hazardous material, including prescription drugs and old ammunition. They weren’t surprised with a man turned in an old shotgun he found sitting in his closet.
Alabama state law requires firearms turned over to the government to be destroyed. But this particular shotgun managed to escape that fate. Hoover Councilman and owner of Hoover Tactical Firearms Gene Smith said the gun sparked his curiosity.
It turns out the shotgun is a vintage double-barrel shotgun made by a German Jewish family small manufacturer in 1892. Smith says this rare gun made before World War I is even more rare than those made by firearms manufacturers because the family wasn’t able to mass produce their guns.
“For the age, this gun is in amazing condition,” Smith says. “It’s in extremely good shape. In fact, anything you’d do to it to try to restore it would actually bring its value down. It’s more valuable just as it sits right now.”
Because the shotgun is over 100 years old, it’s considered an antique instead of a firearm. This loophole in the law allowed Smith to save the shotgun from being destroyed. After Smith talked to police, they decided the “museum-quality” firearm did not have to be melted down.
According to Wikipedia, “Under the United States Gun Control Act of 1968, any cartridge firearm made in or before 1898 (“pre-1899”) is classified as an “antique”, and is generally outside of Federal jurisdiction.” But, the law revolves around the date of the receiver manufacture rather than the date of manufacture of the entire firearm. Therefore, you might see weapons with frames produced before 1899 that still qualify as antique, even though their serial number may date them as post-1899.
After some research, Smith determined the shotgun could be worth as much as $10,000 dollars. Instead of destroying the shotgun, the city put forth efforts to find the gentleman who’d brought it in so they could return it to him. “Hopefully, we can find some way to get in touch with him,” Smith says. He would like to see the firearm on display.
The city started a social media campaign to try to identify the man who brought the shotgun in. Eventually the man, who asked not to be identified, saw a news article and contacted the Hoover Police Department. He said his family has owned the gun for several generations, and he himself had it for the past eight years.
Over the weekend, the shotgun was returned to its original owner. The gun’s owner changed his mind on having the shotgun disposed of once he learned how valuable it is. “That’s just like throwing away a lottery ticket,” he said. “Ya’ll did good, and I appreciate it.” He also said he may consider selling the shotgun.