Historic firearm collection recovered after more than 50 years

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UPPER MERION TWP, MD – A number of artifacts stolen during the 1960s and 1970s have been recovered and returned to the owning museums, thanks to the efforts of Upper Merion Township Detectives, FBI Art Crimes Detectives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,

Fifteen historic firearms from the 18th and 19th century and a silver concho belt were repatriated to the American Swedish Historical Museum, Hershey Story Museum, Landis Valley Museum, Mercer Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, and York County History Center, at a ceremony held at the Museum of the American Revolution this morning.

The recovery of these historic artifacts came about after Upper Merion Township Police detectives never gave up on investigating a 1971 theft and 2018 sale of a rare surviving 1775 rifle made by Pennsylvania master gunsmith Christian Oerter.

Thomas Gavin of Pottstown, Pa., who pleaded guilty in July to selling the Oerter rifle, had admitted to stealing it and these additional artifacts. Gavin was sentenced last month for disposing of the stolen rifle.

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“It took more than 50 years but now these significant pieces of American history are going back to their home museums where they can be seen and enjoyed by all Americans,” said District Attorney Kevin R. Steele. “It’s thanks to the tireless efforts of two Upper Merion Township Police detectives, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that these firearms have been recovered and are now safe. I am so proud of their work.”