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Man Confesses to Theft of Revolutionary War Rifle He Stole in 1971

It’s not often you see a criminal case of theft finally resolved after fifty years, but it’s also not very often where the item in question that was stolen, was a rifle from the Revolutionary War. That’s exactly what happened though in Pennsylvania on July 20th, 2021 when Thomas Gavin pleaded guilty to this unique case of larceny.

Gavin, who’s currently 78 years old, would’ve been in his late 20s when he went to the Valley Forge State Park visitor center. While there, he stole an antique rifle out of its display case and held onto it for several decades. Additionally, Gavin had gathered a number of pilfered pistols over time, eventually selling them all to an antiques dealer in mid-2018.

According to details from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the man who made the purchase, Kelly Kinzle, thought the collection of weapons was a bit odd to be at a barn sale. But, he purchased the rifle, approximately 20 pistols, and a silver Native American concho belt for a little over $27,000. In fairness, Kinzle stated the he thought they had to be reproductions, since the idea of actual guns of that age being in a barn sale would be rather ridiculous. The antique dealer discovered that he had the stolen rifle in his possession in 2019 after studying the firearm, realizing it might actually be real, and contacting his lawyer who helped tie the dots together.

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At the time of the interview with the Inquirer, the investigation of the theft was still in process, but now The New York Times has revealed more information about the thief, the aforementioned Thomas Gavin, and his confession. He stole from a number of different museums, including the Hershey Museum and the American Swedish Historical Museum. The NY Times also revealed that according to court documents, the rifle itself, built by Johann Christian Oerter, is valued at approximately $175,000.

At this time, Gavin has not been sentenced, but the prosecution has recommended he pay up to $20,200 in restitutions. And though we’re certainly not ones to pass judgment on people here at Nerdbot, we do feel it’s safe to say that Gavin’s a dirty son of a gun for committing this crime! See, that’s how you end an article like this, by rifling off a few puns.

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