A FIREARMS enthusiast caught with a sawn-off shotgun hidden at his Wodonga home claims he found it in pieces on the beach while on holiday.
Wodonga detectives had attended Cameron Stewart’s Emerald Avenue home for unrelated reasons on October 4 when they discovered a wooden black powder gun sitting on an outdoor table.
The find led police to conduct a firearms inspection which uncovered the sawn-off single barrel shotgun and a silencer.
The 37-year-old had hidden the items away from his 13 registered guns so they wouldn’t be discovered during routine checks.
Stewart, who works at the south Bandiana army barracks, told the police had found the shotgun “on the coast while on holidays”.
He said the wooden gun had been given to him and he had owned the silencer for a lengthy amount of time.
The Wodonga Magistrates Court heard the silencer had been used with a rifle to hunt wildlife.
Questions were raised in court about his ability to continue working for the army following the discovery of the illegal items.
Stewart is employed as a chef and the court heard his security clearance may be reviewed.
Lawyer Mario Vaccaro said his client was a good member of the community, having volunteered as a firefighter for many years.
The role had seen him fight bushfires in 2003, 2006, during Black Saturday, and in 2014, which had left him suffering post traumatic stress disorder.
“He’s a person who’s put in to the community,” Mr Vaccaro said.
“He may lose his job as a consequence (of the offending).”
He told magistrate Ian Watkins there was no sinister motive behind the sawn-off shotgun possession.
But if Stewart had found the gun, the magistrate asked, why didn’t he just hand it in?
“I mean, it’s a sinister weapon?” Mr Watkins said.
“It’s hard to say he possessed a sawn-off shotgun for some altruistic purpose.”
The court heard the black powder gun didn’t work, but Mr Watkins said a bank teller or taxi driver wouldn’t know that if the gun was pointed at them.
The magistrate said burglaries were occurring across the state and noted “there’s a real market for unregistered firearms”.
Police successfully applied for the seized weapons to be destroyed.
Stewart was convicted and fined $1500, with a further $124 in costs.