i'm looking at a nice little surprise sitting next to me right now...a smith and wesson sigma sw9f pistol...and it was free!
well, not really...about seven years ago on 8/27/01, the day before my 47th birthday and two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, i took this pistol and a couple of cameras into pawn for $400; the customer, a setup contractor for mobile homes, had a 60 day option to buy his stuff back or extend the option. he had done some business with me in the past, buying tools, a necklace for his wife, and had done a few other pawns to pay his help, etc., and he always got his stuff back when he collected on a contract...routine transactions, a good customer, i had many like him.
but this time, with just a few days before his buyback option would expire, i hadn't heard from him...then i got a call from the local agent of the florida department of law enforcement, the fdle. it seems my gentle customer was pretty involved in a smuggling ring on the side; he was in custody and wouldn't be getting out soon...now jon at fdle was an acquaintance, so this was not adversarial at all, but jon had gotten notice through the detailed info that pawnshops file with law enforcement that the customer had pawned the pistol...and they could add a felony charge by showing that the guy was in possession of a functioning pistol, so they needed to take the gun and test fire it. so on 10/26/01 i was given a property receipt stating the gun would be returned to me when it was no longer needed as evidence. included with the gun when i got it back is a plastic zip bag holding two shell casings and marked "test fire, 10/28/01", and jons initials. then there is a receipt dated 10/30/01 turning the everything over to the feds (they sent two atf guys over 100 miles from west palm beach to pick it up) as evidence.
a couple of times i've had the local police or sheriff's office pick up a firearm for test firing and i had them back in a few days, but the state and fed involvement was different; i expected them to take longer, so no big thing. but after six months i called with the case number and they said we're still working on it...then after another six months i got the same answer...and after another year the same, so i'm figuring the gun is lost, stolen, or in some agent's collection. then when i gave up my ffl in 2003 and turned in my records to atf, i came across the receipt again and just tossed it; my gun records showed the dated disposition to fdle.
now i don't know if there's any connection between how this case was handled and 9/11, nor do i know if my ffl records got reviewed and the atf followed up with fdle, all i do know is that last week clint, who bought my pawn shop in '06 and kept the same phone number, got a call from the current local fdle agent who said they had concluded their use of the pistol, and how could they reach me to have me pick it up?
so friday i called and talked to the agent (a new guy; jon retired a few years ago)who was very likable, we talked about the crazy amount of time (he thinks the bad guy was getting out of prison, and that caused a review of the files and evidence), and the fact that if they couldn't reach me, the pistol would go to the sheriff's office evidence unit to be melted into manhole covers as is required by florida law. i told him my old friend tom is head of csi at the s.o. and he would have seen my name and tried to contact me before melting day. i also related that tom had told me the stories of transporting van loads of guns to the smelting plant in south florida where he had to personally watch unclaimed guns, which he said were mostly junkers but had also included fine colts, brownings, etc, as they went up the conveyor and into the furnace. the fdle guy said sarcastically how those inanimate objects had to be put to death so they couldn't hurt anybody...damn, he's one of us, which by the way, many of the cops i dealt with over the years were.
so the guy said he would be out of the office on monday, but he would give the gun and necessary papers to the secretary to give to me when i came in on monday. about two in the afternoon i drove to the local fdle office, showed my id to the lady there, signed the property receipt, and left with my little blue plastic box, still sealed with fdle tape...now i didn't really remember much about the gun, actually i had thought it was a ruger p89, so imagine my surprise when i peeled off the tape, opened the box, and found the little smith in perfect condition; it even looked like they had oiled it and wiped it down when it was sealed...which by the way, as marked on the tamperproof tape, was in 2003; probably after the trial. the original owner's manual, 16rd magazine, and chamber safety plug were even there.
so why in the hell did it take almost five additional years for them to contact me about returning the gun? who knows, it's just indicative of how efficient our cj system is, i guess...but i had written this off as a loss long ago, had even forgotten about it, so to me this is a free gun! ...but this is s&w's version of a glock, and i'm not real fond of the plastics personally...so i wish this was a nice 686 or some such...but you know what, i've been wanting one of those new ruger .380 keltec copies, so i'm gonna take this sigma to clint and have him sell it; that should bring me enough for the ruger (those things are still scarce to find at the wholesalers).
so hey, a new free gun, (kind of)...all's well that ends well, yes?