We've all seen the shows advertised on television about hoarders and hoarding: those sad lonely people who sit in their home overwhelmed by clutter and junk. Compulsive hoarding (also called pathological collecting) may affect as much as 5% of the population. Can you be a gun hoarder? Let's talk about that.
Hoarder vs. Collector
Most hoarder cases profiled are situations where a person refuses to get rid of otherwise worthless items (such as old newspapers, household garbage, phone books, etc.) seeing some future use for them. A collector will specialize in one particular type of item and pursue an interest in that item. For example, a collector may have 100 different coffee mugs from all over the world, whereas a hoarder would have 100 paper coffee cups all from one place...often still with coffee in them.
Firearms have an intrinsic and real value. They rise in value over time on rates comparable with silver and gold. By that guideline most firearms owners are more collector than hoarder.
The Case of M.C.
M.C., a local gunsmith in my hometown, was a living database of firearms lore. In his 80s when I knew him, the man had run a lathe for Remington for two decades before he retired into general gunsmithing from his own shop. Never one to throw away an odd gun part, broken stock, or old bolt, over decades he filled a 1500 sq. ft. shop with enough bits and pieces to fabricate a hundred Franken-guns. I remember sitting with him in his shop and seeing a Sharps carbine trigger group sitting in a box filled with Lahti anti-tank gun parts and what looked like most of a Velo Dog revolver.
"Any of that for sale?" I asked.
"Not on your life," he said without even looking at the items I asked about, "Never know when I'll need those for something."
When he died from a short illness, his daughters and grandkids, uninterested in the vast chaos of metal springs, magazines, and actions, simply boxed it all up and pushed it to the side of the road. Was M.C. a collector? Certainly. Was he a hoarder? Not really. Should he have placed his collection in the hands of someone that could have used it after he moved on? Assuredly.
The Case of Mr. M
Sitting on Mr.M's couch was uncomfortable due to the barrel of the loaded Mossberg 12-gauge that was poking into your legs from under the cushion. So go to the kitchen and open the cabinet for a glass, but be careful or the 1911 in condition one there may fall out if you grab the wrong one. When you take a shower there, watch which bottle of shampoo you reach for so the Smith J frame doesn't tumble out onto your wet feet.
Mr. M is a good guy. A schoolteacher, church choir member, and veteran Marine. He's also a relative of mine and truly believes in keeping a firearm in every room should he have to make a tactical withdrawal or fight naked. He doesn't have any children, lives alone, and is very particular about who comes to his home. Is he a collector? A hoarder? Unsafe?
All I can say for sure is that he was burglarized and it took him two days to figure out where he had all of his hardware hidden to check and see if any of it was missing.
I personally know several firearms collectors who own over 50 working pieces. Myself I do not have quite that many but I do keep an excel spreadsheet of type, caliber, make, model, acquisition date, and serial number for my own personal records. It costs nothing to do and I feel is one of the most important files I have on my computer. With the exception of a foyer closet long arm and a side arm in my nightstand, everything else I have is secured and unloaded as a matter of personal choice.
Questions to see if you have a problem.
1. Do you often buy things you already have because you can’t find them?
2. Do you avoid having company or make excuses when people call to come over because you don’t want them to see how many firearms you have in your home?
3. Is it difficult to maneuver in your home because the pathways are narrow and precariously placed around unsecured firearms and ammunition?
4. Do you have family members who have issues with how many firearms you own?
5. Do people tell you that you might have a problem?
6. Do you spend most of your free time getting or collecting more guns, or lie to friends and family about how many guns you have?
7. Do you feel like you are leading a secret life, one outside your home and one inside it?
8. Have you lost guns inside your house for more than a few hours?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may need to talk to someone.
If not, nothing to see here, keep your head up and move along as a responsible collector.