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Police bust huge arsenal of weapons; 63-year-old man faces charge

A television cameraman records video of ammunition sitting on the floor as some of the firearms seized from a man arrested in Tatla Lake, B.C., are displayed during a news conference at RCMP headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Aug. 29, 2013.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

A Tatla Lake man is facing numerous weapons-related charges after police seized nearly 200 guns, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and other prohibited devices including overcapacity magazines from his home in B.C.'s Chilcotin region.

It is the largest single seizure in the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C.'s history, spokesman Sergeant Lindsey Houghton said Thursday.

A tipster first alerted police in June, reporting that the 63-year-old man, a long-time Tatla Lake resident, was trafficking in both firearms and prohibited devices. The man was arrested at his home on Aug. 23. Police obtained a search warrant and seized 183 firearms, along with ammunition and other devices.

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"Some of the weapons have a street value of several thousand dollars and, in all likelihood, could have made their way into the hands of gangsters or violent criminals across our province," Sgt. Houghton said.

It is not yet known how the guns came into the man's possession, but police believe he may have purchased them legally in B.C. and across Canada.

"Many of these guns are capable of firing rounds that could pass through vehicles, doors and even police body armour," Sgt. Hougton said. "That is an unacceptable risk to the public and police officers across our province."

At a media event on Thursday, police displayed a sampling: AR-type rifles, SKS semi-automatic rifles and handguns were splayed across a table while boxes of ammunition sat underneath.

"Every firearm that's on the table is readily available in the legal market in Canada," explained Corporal Frank Grosspietsch with the RCMP's National Weapons Enforcement Support Team. "You have non-restricted, you have restricted firearms here. If you have a valid licence, you can purchase the firearms. He had a valid licence.

"It was his subsequent reselling of the firearms to non-licensed persons that caught our attention."

The man has been released from custody pending charges from the Crown. He could face possession and trafficking charges, Sgt. Houghton said, and potentially dozens of counts.

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Tatla Lake is a tiny community about 200 kilometres west of Williams Lake.

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