YOMITAN, Okinawa — A U.S. civilian employee on Torii Station was charged Monday with possessing an illegal antique rifle, according to a Okinawa prefectural police spokesman in Kadena town.

Delbert W. Spear, 46, was arrested May 22 after police searched his Yomitan home and confiscated a rifle and ammunition for a rifle and handgun, said police spokesman Satoshi Yamada. The Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office presented indictments Monday charging Spear with illegal possession of a rifle and ammunition in violation of Japan’s strict Firearms and Swords Control Law.

Spear, who has lived on Okinawa since 1998, told police that he is interested in firearms and that he kept the rifle as a collector, Yamada said. The rifle, which is believed to have been brought to Okinawa from overseas, is an outdated model and there is no indication that it was ever used, he said. A report from a neighbor led to the search of Spear’s home and his arrest.

Spear was in Okinawa police custody Tuesday. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a maximum fine of 1 million yen (about $8,740).

“It is important to remember that Japan has a very strict firearms control law,” Yamada said. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, he added. “Even inadvertently, if you bring in firearm into Japan, it is punishable by law.”

Bringing any type of firearm into Japan is prohibited, except for hunting or sports use with appropriate authorization, said Osamu Fukuyama, an Okinawa District Customs Office spokesman. He advised any American in Japan under the status of forces agreement to report any firearms that may have been unwittingly shipped to Japan with their household goods.

“We recommend anyone with such an item to contact his or her military authority and make an arrangement to store the weapon in a public institution on a military base during their stay in Japan,” he said.

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