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Thomas W. Gould of Grand Island told The Buffalo News last year that he has a collection of more than 20 tanks, a bunch of rare World War II Army trucks and stuff like cannons, flamethrowers and bazookas. Gould also has possession of armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns and other military gear. It sounds as if he's gearing up an armed force to go to war somewhere, but he claims, through his lawyer, that it's just the Western New York Military Museum.

Museum? On Buffalo's Northland Avenue? You didn't know about it?

Well, it has no regular hours of public display. It doesn't make itself known. No phone book listing. And its provisional museum charter from New York State has expired.

More like a warehouse, it seems. Or an armory.

The good news is that Army officials say they are preparing to seize Gould's collection. Investigators are trying to find out how Gould got possession of his warrior collection and whether the equipment was obtained in line with government regulations.

In any event, the Army says private collections of this sort -- as opposed to those in real museums -- are not permitted. That's reassuring because, for the public good, the capabilities of creating a war -- especially such a vast one -- should not rest in the hands of a private individual. Do you want some guy with a tank in your neighborhood? How about 20 tanks? Bazookas?

It's worth wondering why it took authorities so long to deal with Gould, who compiled his collection over a considerable period of time. He is not a newcomer to the news pages, nor is he an unknown. He was a member of the Sheriff's Department Reserve Division with the rank of captain until removed from the reserve by Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins for incidents that embarrassed the department.

In 1994, one of Gould's Sherman tanks resting atop a tank carrier was creeping along the Kensington Expressway, backing up rush-hour traffic, when a sheriff's deputy tried to halt it. The rig smashed into the patrol car. Among other things, the tank was well over weight limits, too wide for a Kensington lane and without needed permits.

Then last year Gould startled Grand Islanders by driving an armored personnel carrier -- on tracks rather than tires and painted in military camouflage -- to a West River Road tavern two miles from his home. Gould said he had been driving it from time to time to make sure it was working.

Enough. The Army should put a priority on its investigation and repossess Gould's military stores. It may be just a hobby he is pursuing, but this is not the same as collecting dolls or comic books. Gould's collection -- if put in full working order -- could create great havoc in the wrong hands. That's why we have laws against private arsenals, and it's why they should be enforced.

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