SANTA ROSA BEACH — The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is begging tourists to remember to take their guns with them when they go home.

The plea comes after seven guns were turned in by cleaning crews that found them after vacationers had left this past weekend, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Corey Dobridnia.

She said a total of 20 guns have been turned in since Memorial Day. Ninety percent came from vacation homes. 

Dobridnia said the left-behind guns are dangerous for two reasons.

“Say the housekeeper didn’t find it, and it’s left in a drawer, and another family checks in that has kids and the gun’s loaded and the kids find it?” Dobridnia said. “And second, what if it ends up in the wrong hands? A crime can be committed and that gun is impossible to trace.”

When cleaning crews turn a gun in Sheriff's Office, it is held for 90 days until somebody claims it. If it is claimed and its owner is out of state, the Sheriff’s Office goes through an extensive owner verification process and ships the gun to a licensed gun dealer near the person’s home for them to collect.

But only about half the guns turned in this summer have been retrieved by their owners. The rest are either destroyed or, if they’re the right make and model, used for deputy training, Dobridnia said.

A representative with a rental management company in South Walton County who did not wish to be named said she had dealt with guests before who had left guns in their vacation homes.

“We’ve gotten phone calls from guests that have left guns behind,” she said. “They called and they’re like, ‘Hey, I stayed in Grayton Beach and I left my handgun underneath the bed.’ We’ll send someone out there and, sure enough, there’s a handgun wedged up underneath the bed.”  

The representative said they hold the gun for the resident to come back and retrieve it.

Dobridnia, who said she owns a gun, said keeping track of where a gun is at all times is simply a part of responsible ownership.

“When you own a gun, that’s a huge responsibility, and certainly one that should be taken seriously."