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Rocket launchers were found in a trash can near a California school

Authorities found two rocket launchers and a practice grenade at a suspect's house in Temecula, California on Tuesday.
Riverside County Sheriff's Department
Authorities found two rocket launchers and a practice grenade at a suspect's house in Temecula, California on Tuesday.

Two rocket launchers and a practice grenade were found in a trash can at a residence near a California school earlier this week, authorities said.

On Wednesday, Perris Station deputies responded to the 32200 block of Leon Road, Winchester, regarding a military ordnance found in a trash dumpster, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department told NPR. The location was less than a mile from Liberty High School.

Inside the dumpster were two empty, one-time use, disposable AT4 launcher tubes and one inert practice grenade that was cut in half.

"Although the launcher tubes are illegal to possess, they were not a safety hazard and there was no threat to the community," the department said. "This incident was not an unusual occurrence, as we routinely find and seize inert military ordnance."

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department Hazard Device Team responded to the scene and collected the items.

Are these weapons legal?

Grenades and rocket launchers, also known as bazookas, are considered "destructive devices" by the National Firearms Act. They are also classified as firearms and are therefore legal with proper registration.

However, states and localities have the power to further regulate or outlaw the weapons in their jurisdictions.

Possessing a destructive device is illegal in California, if it can be proven in court who it belongs to and that the person knew it was a destructive device.

Penalties for breaking that law — whether treated as a misdemeanor or felony — depends on a suspect's criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

As a misdemeanor, the crime carries up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. As a felony, perpetrators could face up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, legal arguments can be made if there is a permit for the weapon.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 31, 2022 at 10:00 PM MDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said police arrested Christopher Whetstone in connection with the discovery of two rocket launchers and an inert practice grenade near a school. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said it provided NPR with the wrong information. The public information officer for the department told NPR he researched "the wrong station area believing the incident I located was the one you were inquiring of." An earlier version of this story also misused ordinance.

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