Biker, 76, must prove he's competent to keep rare weapons at home
TORONTO - Beating firearms charges seems like it should be a slam-dunk for aging biker Johnny Sombrero.
But now the 76-year-old gun collector, whose real name is Henry Barnes, must also prove he is mentally stable enough to keep his 18 machine guns and dozens of other rare weapons locked up in his North York apartment.
"He's fully compliant, he's done everything right," lawyer David Costa said Tuesday at 1000 Finch Ave. W. court, where his client was facing 18 careless storage charges in a potentially precedent-setting case. "If anything, this guy is the example for others to follow."
Sombrero is the president and lone remaining founder of the Black Diamond Riders, one of the city's oldest motorcycle clubs, and he has no criminal record.
In January 2010, Toronto Police stormed his apartment and allegedly roughed up the senior.
He alleges they held him at gunpoint for five hours before seizing his collection and charging him for leaving the bolts inside his machine guns, even though the weapons were stored in lockers.
Costa argues his client's firearms were all locked, or double-locked, in steel cabinets similar to what many gun owners use, with the added security of steel bars in the front.
The cabinets are stored in a locked bedroom in Sombrero's 10th-floor apartment, he pointed out in his final submission.
Lets see, no criminal record, all rules followed, yet the police still feel a need to bust open a seniors apartment and confiscate weapons that are locked up in a secure area.
Now I do have an issue with the headline. Calling the lone remaining member of a bike club a "biker" tends to confuse the issue. Maybe "ex-biker" or "former biker" would be appropriate. Still that's no the main issue here.
Mr. Barnes LEGALLY purchased, registered and stored his weapon collection. Yes it's a collection. Owning machine guns is not something a typical fire arm owner will purchase. Considering the rules and regulations and paperwork is even more stringent then purchasing a handgun. For some unfathomable reason the police thought that they should break in and confiscate all these pieces of hardware and then charge Mr. Barnes. A little heavy on the legal end don't you think?
One of the problems with the firearm legislation is that there are too many grey areas and weasel worded passages. Want an example? A friend of mine was reading the legislation and had a question. In it it discusses the storage of a "reasonable amount of ammunition". Now what is a reasonable amount? For the average once a month target shooter is a hundred rounds reasonable or 1,000? For a once a week shooter more? The friend asked a police officer this question and got a blank stare. So if the police want an excuse they could probably go into a persons house without prior notice or warrant and claim a person was storing an unreasonable amount of ammunition. Just like they figured Mr. Barnes was "improperly storing" his firearms.
If Mr. Barnes manages to beat this court case, will he face more charges? Another question, will he ever see his weapon collection ever again? My thoughts and wishes go out to him. I hope his lawyer beats these ludicrous charges.
Isn't this how freedom withers away and dies?