Salt Lake police have arrested a man in the theft of seven antique guns once owned by firearm inventor John Browning.
The guns were taken from a private collection of Browning's personal guns owned by his granddaughter. The heirlooms from the 1800s were being stored at her home in the Federal Heights area and were to be passed down to the next generation of the family.The 23-year-old suspect is a distant member of the family.
Police believe the thief entered the house through a basement window, found the keys to the gun case and stole the weapons, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Jim Bell.
One shotgun was sold to a local pawn shop for $100. Collectors say the weapon is worth about $20,000. The other six were randomly sold to unsuspecting people for about $150 apiece, Bell said.
Police have recovered three shotguns and a lever-action .44 magnum rifle. Three of them have never been used and one was Browning's personal hunting rifle, said Bell. Collectors say that gun is priceless.
The collection also included an over-under shotgun with serial number 2. The gun with serial number 1 is in the Smithsonian Institution. Bell said detectives have leads on the location of the remaining three guns and hope to recover them soon.
The Salt Lake County suspect was booked into jail for investigation of burglary and theft.
Browning, an Ogden native, invented and designed more successful firearms than any other American. He designed a series of pistols, rifles and shotguns, and the U.S. Army adopted his machine gun in 1890. He became internationally famous for designing and inventing automatic arms, including the Browning automatic rifle or BAR.