Utah's volunteer militia has lost track of four dozen antique rifles, according to a Utah State auditor's report aimed at locating and disposing of surplus property.
But a liaison officer with the Utah Army National Guard believes the Utah Defense Force, an all-volunteer state militia, has done a pretty good job keeping track of the old Springfield rifles, donated to the state in 1903.Some 48 of the 150 rifles are unaccounted for, according to auditor Tom Allen. "That's four dozen we couldn't inventory. Whether they're on loan or have been sold we don't know," he said. The remaining 102 rifles are in the custody of the Utah Defense Force in a vault at the National Guard armory on Sunnyside Avenue near the University of Utah.
Allen said the auditor's office called local gun shops to put a value on the rifles, which could be worth $200 to $2,000 depending on their caliber and condition.
Utah National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Terry Haslam said the volunteers got the rifles during the World War II era when the group, then known as the Utah State Guard, was called on to watch over armories and perform other duties while all of the state's National Guard members were on active duty because of the war.
"They don't really use them in their mission (now) but have maintained these rifles over the years," Haslam said.
Over time, some of the rifles were loaned to police departments in Salt Lake City and Logan while others were taken by the National Guard for color and honor guard use. "We are still using some of these weapons," Haslam said.
Haslem bought a Springfield rifle from a sporting goods store in the 1950s for $15, which leads him to question whether the state could get as much as $2,000 for the rifles if it decides to sell some of the surplus Springfields now in storage.
All weapons assigned to the National Guard are inventoried daily by serial number and audited monthly, Haslam said. But the requirements for keeping track of the Springfields are not that exacting. "Over the years, they haven't kept a really good record."
The force has undergone other changes that could have interrupted record-keeping continuity as well.
The volunteer militia developed a rather sorted reputation when it was known as the Utah State Guard. The problem led to an Legislature-ordered reorganization and renaming of the group in 1988 that included a complete purge of its membership.
"They discharged everybody and started from scratch. They selectively recruited individuals approved by the Adjutant General and the governor," Haslam said.