Gasior, 54, of Fredericksburg, now finds himself at the center of an international legal battle pitting him against the European nation where he grew up.
At stake, those in the case say, is a part of Polish history and the right of collectors and veterans to keep relics that they brought back from faraway places. Gasior and his lawyer argue that the rifle is what is known as a “war trophy,” carried into the United States legally by a soldier who got it during World War II. Polish officials say that can’t be so, because war trophies are taken from enemies, and this gun was made for Polish soldiers fighting on the same side as U.S. troops.
Homeland Security officials routinely seize cultural artifacts, often statues or artwork, and return them to foreign countries with some fanfare. But when four federal agents came to Gasior’s door in March — only a week after Gasior had posted the weapon for sale on his Web site — Gasior said he assumed they were conducting a regular inspection of his stock.
Almost immediately, he said, they demanded the Maroszek rifle, and one agent circled behind him as he protested.
“I told them they had absolutely no right to take this rifle,” Gasior said. “They made me understand if I did not give them the rifle, I would go with the rifle.”
Poland is “very protective” of pieces the government considers “related to the defense of the Polish state in any way, shape or form,” said David Stefancic, a history professor at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. And the Maroszek, he said, is a “very unique piece.”
“To have one in your collection, there’s a lot of bragging rights,” he said.
Gasior’s case drew particular attention earlier this year in gun collector circles, when the president of the NRA wrote a commentary for the Washington Times about the case. The gun-rights group even paid to hire a lawyer for Gasior, who said he was an on-and-off member.
Gasior, though, is an unlikely face for a legal showdown with Poland. In a thick Polish accent, the married father of two speaks proudly of his parents’ service in the Polish Home Army and of learning to read from his family’s Polish military history books. His grandfather, he said, died defending Poland in World War II.
Gasior immigrated to the U.S. in 1985, studying international relations and political science at UCLA before he moved to Virginia to work for General Electric and Ericsson, a communications company. He said he transitioned to collecting and selling antique weapons full-time as his finances allowed.