Some people collect and sell antique cars, others collect guns.
That was the point Mark Albin, 49, tried to make this week after he was charged with possession of 16 assault weapons, 76 unregistered high-capacity magazines, and six silencers.
Albin also faces one count of manufacturing an explosive device in his Tackora Trail home and one count of disorderly conduct.
“Most of the guns I bought when I was younger,” Albin said Monday. “Just like an antique car, they go up in value.”
Albin, a mechanic who works at the Limestone Service Station on Danbury Road, said he built some of the guns and silencers.
Of the assault weapons included in a photo released by the Ridgefield Police Department, Albin said between five to seven were guns he assembled at home from parts he ordered online.
“They’re legally made, homemade guns,” he said. “That’s what blew a gasket with the Ridgefield police.”
“They’re not 3D-printed ghost guns,” he added.
Albin said he also assembled the six silencers from parts he bought off of Amazon.
The devices are made to look like “solvent traps,” he said.
“Maybe I should have registered the high-capacity [magazines], but they never left my house,” he said, noting that he has 10-round magazines — the legal limit in Connecticut — that he brings to the shooting range.
Albin said one of the other rifles included in the photo — a Norinco AK-47 he purchased in the late 1980’s for $700, is now worth between $10,000 and $20,000, because the gun was manufactured prior to the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons.
According to Albin, the assault weapons made at home were not registered because home-built guns do not have a serial number.
Albin said all of his guns were stored in a safe.
“I’m a mechanic, not a gunsmith,” Albin said. “I like building stuff from scratch, that’s all. And there’s plenty of documentation on the internet that’s readily available to anybody who wants to build guns from scratch.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the issue was not about whether the guns were stored correctly, but that they were unregistered and therefore illegal.
“The worry is what happens when a cache like this one gets into the wrong hands?” said Marconi. “All it takes is the wrong person to get their hands on these types of weapons.”
Last Thursday, police responded to a disturbance call at Albin’s residence after his son called police during an argument between Albin and his wife.
“We were having a loud argument and my kid got scared and called 911,” he said. “Nothing physical happened. She didn’t want me to leave the house is all, and I didn’t want to stay.”
An officer who responded to the scene told Albin they would have to hold his guns.
“He said ‘because you’re a registered handgun owner, I need to collect your handguns,’” Albin said. “I gave him access to everything.”
According to a press release from Ridgefield police, officers “discovered illegal firearms, high capacity magazines, and an explosive device.”
Albin was charged and released after posting $50,000 in bail for the weapons charges, and $500 for a disorderly conduct charge for the disturbance. He is due back in court on April 11 for the weapons charges, and May 7 for the disorderly conduct charge.
The explosive device found in the home was made up of parts Albin had purchased to build a tear-gas grenade.
He said the grenade could have been fired from a 3-mm flare launcher, also in his possession and seized by police.
Besides the 16 assault weapons named in the arrest, he estimated he turned over around 40 other firearms to police, including shotguns he uses for hunting.
Since his arrest, Albin said he has received death threats made by phone.
“A car pulled in my driveway and [the driver] called me ‘baby killer’ at one o’clock in the morning, laying on the horn,” he said.
During an interview Monday in the parking lot of a closed Norwalk gun store, Albin declined a call on his cellphone from an unknown number in Newtown.
“That’s where I get calls from, I don’t even answer,” he said.
Several residents defended Albin’s reputation.
“He is a local mechanic — an honest, reputable guy,” said John Miceli, who owns a tree-cutting business. “He’s fixed several cars for me over the years.”
Albin said he’s been laid off from his job as a mechanic at the service station. The owners said Friday, that Albin had not been fired, but had been asked to take a few weeks off.
Chris Patterson, a town resident who attended school with Albin, said he is a “solid guy.”
Albin said he’s never threatened anyone with a gun.
“I’ve never pointed a gun at anyone in my life, I’ve only ever pointed at targets,” he said.
‘I don’t remember anything like this’
Police Commission Chairman George Kain said Albin is entitled to a fair trial.
“This is all gonna get flushed out in court,” he told The Press Monday, April 1. “Let the process run it’s course.”
Kain added that the parts Albin purchased to build his guns were “legal to buy.”
“If he was on the streets of Bridgeport looking to buy an AK-47, then I’d have a problem,” Kain said. “You don’t want to destroy a hard working guy who is a darn-good mechanic by all accounts.”
The police commission chairman noted that he didn’t know why someone like Albin would need to have a cache of weapons.
“People have guns for any number of reasons … I don’t know why he had the guns,” Kain said.
Kain said that Albin’s arrest was a first for the police department.
“I don’t remember anything like this,” he said, “but this type of arrest would not have happened up until three years ago when the law changed.”
“People are forgetting the need to fill out the paperwork [to register their guns].”