Sheriff's crime scene tape (copy) (copy) (copy)

A busted safe and a black pry bar beside it were just a few of the scattered items that remained from the heist. Gone were roughly 70 guns, stolen from a property on the upper edge of South Carolina.

Its owner recently told Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office deputies that he'd come across the scene after visiting his brother in North Carolina. The stolen firearms — a mix of long guns and handguns — weren't just stacked in the battered safe, normally in the man's garage. But they also were inside his nearby mobile home, he said.  

And whoever took the firearms appeared to want more. The owner had additional safes in his garage, filled with ammunition and more guns. The handles and combination locks on those safes were broken but their contents still protected inside, the man told a deputy.

It was unclear Monday why the man had so many guns on hand. He could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Chief Deputy Chris Page said Monday the safe was large and well-structured, not a cheap one that could be easily pierced.   

“They worked on this thing for a while," he said. 

It wasn't immediately clear to deputies how the person, or people, got to the safe. There were pry marks on the home's front door, but it didn't look like anyone entered through it, a deputy noted in a report. No fingerprints were found on the safe, he added. 

Scattered near the scene were a gun lying in the grass near the man's home, a shotgun barrel on the front porch and three spent shell casings on the ground, the report said.  

Page said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was contacted about the stolen firearms. No arrests were made in the case as of Monday afternoon. 

Some media outlets reported that the stolen guns were valued at $1 million, but the sheriff's office put the loss at closer to $50,000 in its report. Page said it was unclear where the higher estimate came from. 

The number of guns stolen across South Carolina is not known. State law does not require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms.

A bill introduced in the state House of Representatives last year attempting to require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms, rifles or shotguns and for law enforcement agencies to collect information on them stalled in the Judiciary Committee. 

Of just federal gun licensees, such as pawnbrokers and dealers, 350 firearms were reported lost or stolen in the state in 2018, according to data from the ATF.  

Page, the chief deputy, said guns are frequently stolen, along with electronics, televisions and computers. He encouraged firearm owners to keep track of serial numbers of firearms they own so they can be more easily tracked if they are stolen or lost.

“Our hope is to find at least one and that way give us a starting point,” Page said of the man's stolen guns. “I feel sure that somebody’s going to get rid of one or two, if not all of them, at some point.” 

He asked that buyers, even as far away as the Charleston area, let officers know if they come across guns being sold for prices that seem too cheap to be true.  

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Reach Stephen Hobbs at 843-937-5428. Follow him on Twitter @bystephenhobbs.

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