Beware Bad Gun Stores

20130303-205509.jpgLet’s be honest. Plenty of people who have guns, should not, and if they are not criminals then, chances are, they bought these guns legally. Brick and mortar gun stores are still our first, and best, line of defense against dangerous gun owners, but how many are doing the right by us? Being “legal” in the eyes of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives is an intense process for an Federal Firearms License holder. Hours of paperwork and double checking is necessary to keep a store in good standings. However, even if all of this is being done, many stores may still lose sight of the fact, they are not selling just any sports equipment

We’ve all heard of that gun shop that always had glass missing from one display case…. The store that has to buzz you through two doors of bullet proof glass before you can come and shop… Or a business whose only form of marketing is answering the phone. I hope we all know to avoid such places. But sometimes bad gun stores are not this obvious. Many firearms businesses are now cleaning up their sales floors, opening in nice neighborhoods, and adding designer furniture, but in the back of the house, it’s business as usual.

  • Is the guy next to you at the counter having trouble with his 4473? Salespeople are not allowed to help customers fill out this form, and if the customer can’t read the paper for some reason, should they really be allowed to buy a gun today? Further, it’s not your responsibility to speak up, but a store employee probably should… (Editor’s note: shop employees are allowed to assist individuals with reading/learning disabilities that may make it difficult to read a 4473 – being illiterate does not strip one of their 2nd Amendment rights)
  • “What do you want a gun for?” is a very important question for a sales person to ask. After all, if we preach that guns are tools, we should be selling the right toolsfor the job. But this question is also important because it helps to size up each customer and opens a dialogue.

I was once in a gun shop when a man came in asking to buy a gun. He did seem like the store’s typical clientele so a sales person asked him this exact question. The man’s response, “I need to kill some people.” Needless to say the man left the store empty handed. Say what you will about profiling, if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right, and the ATF isn’t going to be behind the counter when it happens.

  • Generally speaking, gun stores are only allowed to sell their merchandise at the address printed on their license, with certain exceptions for special events such as gun shows, sponsored range events, etc.. That means that guns for sale must stay at the shop and the buyer must come to the shop to take possession. Taking a gun up to the home of a special customer is not kosher, and means that that gun store is willing to bend the rules.

And while we are on the subject of special customers…

  • If they are making deals with special customers in the back office at closing time, I would worry about the place. They are operating like the “old boys club”, out of which the industry is attempting to grow.
  • Is the store policy clear? If every employee tells a different story, chances are the business is too much of a mess to properly inform their team.  If staff at gun stores are not trained to spot trouble, all sorts of issues may be lurking.
  • Some stores have no idea what they have in stock. If they can’t keep track of their holsters, maybe they’ve lost track of a few other things as well. Yes, the ATF requires FFL’s to report missing guns immediately, but they don’t put standards on the checking of inventory. If a store only checks inventory once per year, how long could a gun be missing before anyone notices?
  • Some stores have attached ranges that can be full service or just a sales tool. Either way, do they keep it safe? Are range safety officers visible? Do they allow just anyone to come in and shoot? Do they catch and stop people who are miss handling firearms? No one should be careless when firearms are involved, least of all those in the firearms business.

If you are seeing behavior at a gun store that is worrisome, don’t wait until something happens. Speak up and then take your business elsewhere. Not only is it a matter of everyone’s immediate safety, but carelessness can only chip away at the rights of responsible gun owners.

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