The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 2, 2010

Gun display swiped from armory

Collection of antiques had long been displayed at Blue Earth County Library

MANKATO — A collection of antique guns, which survived for decades in a Mapleton man’s home and many more years in the Blue Earth County Library, has been stolen from a Mankato armory.

A full-time guardsman called police Thursday morning after he reported to work at the National Guard Armory in Mankato and found a broken window. Dozens of antique firearms that were on display in the lobby of the building were missing.

Roughly two dozen rifles and about 70 handguns are missing, said Maj. Darrin Janisch, who works at the armory. Some of the rifles were left behind by the burglar or burglars. Most of the handguns were gone.

Mankato police detectives are using an inventory of the guns to determine what’s missing. The guns that weren’t stolen have been locked in a vault at the armory, which is at 100 Martin Luther King Drive on the east edge of the city.

“As far as we know, nothing else was taken,” said Maj. Paul Rickert, a National Guard public affairs officer in St. Paul. “No National Guard weapons were taken. It would have been much more difficult to get any Army weapons. They’re in a locked steel vault that’s not on display.”

The guns that were stolen were donated to the Blue Earth County Library by Lawrence Will, a Mapleton gun collector, during the 1970s. One stipulation of the donation was that the guns remain on display.

That display became controversial so, after the armory was built, the guns were moved there in 2003. They were displayed in several cabinets.

“It was a general firearms collection,” said Alvin Olson, a friend of Will’s son and a former Mapleton police chief. “There was everything there from cap and ball single-shot handguns to modern guns up into the 1940s and 50s.

“It’s really sad that there wasn’t better security for them. I thought the armory would be a secure building.”

Will owned an automobile dealership in Mapleton and likely built up his collection by taking the guns in on trade, Olson said. “Some of the stuff was given to him by returning World War II vets.”

One of the weapons was a Japanese machine gun. It was given to Will in working order. However, after gun laws became more strict, he was contacted by state or federal authorities. They said he could keep the gun but made him adjust the barrel to make it inoperable.

A majority of the guns donated to the county were well kept and modern enough to use ammunition that is easily available, Olson said.

“It was sad to see them leave the library because there was so much history there,” Olson said.

“It’s a substantial loss to the county. I think this would have been a great disappointment to the whole Will family.”

Will died many years ago and he doesn’t have any direct relatives still living in the area, said Jack Will, a cousin who lives in Mapleton.

Anyone with information about the burglary, which happened sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, should call Mankato detectives at 387-8770.

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