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September 1, 2008

Looking a Gift Loophole in the Mouth

In July, Bullet Counter Points reported on the “Fire Sales Loophole,” which allows corrupt gun dealers who have had their licenses revoked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to sell off their remaining inventory without conducting background checks or keeping records. That blog focused on a Chicago dealer who had his license revoked after committing 500 violations of federal law, and yet who was still permitted to transfer 200 guns from his "business inventory" into his "personal collection" of firearms. Those guns ended up on crime scenes in Canada after the dealer illegally trafficked them across the border and sold them off the books to gang members and others.

Now, an equally disturbing story comes to us from Michigan. On August 14, ATF agents and Michigan State Police troopers descended on the Gun Barn in Highland Township and confiscated more than 612 firearms from the store. The owners of the store, Gabriel Kish III and Deborah Summers, were arrested for dealing in firearms without a federal license.

The ATF had revoked Kish and Summers’ Federal Firearms License (FFL) in 2004 for violations of the 1968 Gun Control Act. Despite the threat they posed to public safety, the couple was then allowed to exploit the Fire Sales Loophole and sell off their remaining inventory without conducting background checks on purchasers or maintaining records of those sales.

Kish and Summers didn’t stop there, however. ATF soon received a tip that the couple was continuing to sell guns off the books even after depleting their remaining inventory. An investigation was launched, during which undercover agents were able to purchase firearms from Gun Barn—cash and carry, no questions asked. Now, after several years of dealing guns illegally, the couple has—finally—been put out of business for good.

ATF resident agent in charge Robin Shoemaker admitted that tracing the guns that were sold by Gun Barn after the store’s license was revoked will be difficult, if not impossible—because there is no paper trail whatsoever for the agency to follow in determining who bought them. Commented Special Agent Thomas Brandon from ATF’s Detroit Field Division: “The unlawful sale of firearms, especially dealing firearms without a license, can put guns into the hands of criminals, and put our communities at risk.”

That would seem so obvious that you’d think Congress would have taken action years ago to close the Fire Sales Loophole. Ever eager to please the gun lobby, however, they have yet to even consider legislation to do so. This has the 320 members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns up in arms (pardon the bad pun).

The tragedy is that the simple effort it would take to close the Fire Sales Loophole would do an enormous amount of good. The ATF has reported that just 1.2 percent of licensed dealers are the source of over 57 percent of guns found on crime scenes. Putting this small but dangerous group of bad apples out of business—immediately and permanently—would go far in drying up the gun pool that criminals swim in.


  1. Why can't the ATF just buy the guns in inventory from a gun dealer they are closing down? If they buy the guns right then and there the ATF can then sell those guns at an auction or gun show. The ATF would be doing two things at once, one, closing down an FFL dealer, two, making sure the FFL dealer doesn't sell firearms to criminals and or to trafficers.

  2. Rudy, the idea of using taxpayer dollars to buy off the inventories of gun dealers who have put the public at risk by repeatedly violating federal laws doesn’t make much sense to us.

    Nor does the idea of having ATF sell guns at auctions or gun shows. ATF is charged with enforcing our nation’s federal firearms laws against FFLs and others. Putting them in the business of dealing firearms would be a textbook example of “conflict of interest.”

    The larger point, of course, is that a corrupt dealer who has shown no regard for federal law or the public’s safety is not entitled to make any profit from their remaining inventory. These dealers should be put out of business immediately and permanently and ATF should confiscate their remaining firearms. - CSGV

  3. As a long time observer of the Gun Barn, both in Highland, and when they were in Milford, and the Fun Barn, the fireworks and Halloween supply shop that they ran from a garage at the rear of the main store, it's no shock that they got busted. I am totally shocked that it took the ATF so long to do something about them to be quite honest. It was no big secret that they sold all types of illegal fireworks from "Under the counter", and there were many Highland Township, and Oakland County law enforcement and fire officials that would buy their goodies there! Gabe, the owner, is a former Oakland County Sheriff's Department reserve, and they let him get away with murder! It was a clearing house for guns, and they were operating on a temporary license for years, for violations that are easy to find using public information resources. If you go to Oakland County's web site, you can look up law suits of people who died as a result of Gun Barn firearms sales. They didn't care who they sold to, or what they sold, as money was king! I hope they have the book thrown at them, and North Oakland County will be a much safer place!!