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October 20, 2008

Shooting with the Enemy

Recently, CSGV Director of Communications Ladd Everitt met with Brian Borgelt, the former owner of Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, while spending time in Tacoma, Washington. Bull’s Eye was the source of the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle used by D.C. snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo during their deadly shooting spree. Here is Ladd's recounting of his trip...

I recently traveled to Tacoma for the screening of a documentary entitled “Illicit Exchanges: Canada, the U.S. & Crime.” The film was produced by the School of Arts & Communication at Pacific Lutheran University and a premiere was held on October 4 at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry. During a post-premiere reception, I was approached by Brian Borgelt, who owned Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply before his Federal Firearms License (FFL) was revoked in 2003 following the D.C. sniper shootings (we both appeared briefly in the documentary). He now runs the shooting range directly above the store.

Brian was surprised that I knew who he was, and I explained to him that being both a gun violence prevention activist and a longtime resident of Washington D.C., I was well acquainted with the specifics of the D.C. sniper case. I told him that I had been thinking of visiting Bull’s Eye during my stay in Tacoma, and he was kind enough to invite me in to see the store and shoot at his range.

The afternoon I spent with Brian two days later was one of the most interesting I have spent working in the gun violence prevention field.

The Gun(s) That Disappeared
The shooting spree perpetrated by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo in October 2002 terrorized the entire Beltway area and was headline news across America. All told, ten people were killed and three others critically injured by the snipers in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Subsequent investigation revealed that Muhammad and Malvo were responsible for additional murders that had been committed previously in Alabama, Arizona, and their home town of Tacoma, Washington.

When Muhammad and Malvo were finally apprehended, the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle they used in the Beltway shootings was traced to Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, which was owned at that time by Brian Borgelt. Brian told authorities he didn’t know how the gun left his shop. And it wasn’t just the Bushmaster. All told, Brian could not account for 238 missing guns in his inventory and indicate whether they had been lost, stolen, or sold off the books. In fact, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had been investigating Bull’s Eye since 1994 because guns from the store were repeatedly ending up on crime scenes.

In July 2003, ATF finally revoked Brian’s Federal Firearms License, citing “willful” violations of federal gun laws (the required standard thanks to a 1986 law written by the National Rifle Association). Undeterred, Brian simply transferred ownership of the business to a longtime friend, Kris Kindschuh, and moved upstairs to run the Bull’s Eye Indoor [shooting] Range. The store never lost a day of business and Bushmaster, describing Bull’s Eye as a “good customer,” continued to supply them with firearms.

Straw Man’s Boon
When I visited the Bull’s Eye Indoor Range on October 6 to meet with Brian, he revealed to me some aspects of the sniper case of which I was not aware.

I learned that the Bushmaster rifle was not the first gun that John Allen Muhammad had acquired from Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply. In November 2001, Earl Dancy, Jr. straw purchased a .308 Remington 700 rifle (a gun often used by police departments for tactical shooting) from Bull’s Eye on Muhammad’s behalf. On August 17, 2002, that rifle was found perched on a bipod in a patch of woods in Tacoma. It had been loaded and pointed toward a nearby apartment complex. Law enforcement traced the gun to Dancy, who lied for Muhammad and claimed that the rifle was stolen from him sometime after he bought it. As the state of Washington has no law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms (only seven states currently have such laws in place), police had nothing to charge Dancy with and he was released after questioning.

Straw purchasing a gun for another individual (so that they can avoid the required background check) is a federal felony offense. It is a common tactic for straw purchasers to claim a gun was stolen after it is traced back to them from a crime scene. This forces law enforcement to prove that they are lying, which can be extremely difficult if the shooter has yet to be identified and/or apprehended, or if the connection between the shooter and the straw purchaser is tangential.

Brian expressed a great deal of frustration to me that local law enforcement had failed to identify Dancy as a straw purchaser in the fall of 2002 (he was later convicted after the Beltway shootings). He believed Muhammad could have been stopped before the bulk of his shooting spree took place.

I was surprised, therefore, to learn that Brian opposes any requirement for gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. His explanation was that he knows many gun owners who own 30 or more guns and these individuals might not be aware if one or more of their guns were stolen. He was worried that law enforcement might prosecute these individuals if they did not comply with the law.

I told Brian that my personal concept of a “responsible gun owner” is an individual who takes the necessary precautions to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to their firearms (i.e., by storing those firearms safely and securely). It disturbed me to think that a gun owner could be so cavalier about his collection that he could lose guns without even noticing.

I suggested to Brian that even a law that gave gun owners one, three, or a full six months to report lost or stolen guns would be better than nothing (most laws of this type allow gun owners 72 hours to make their reports). It would certainly help deter straw purchasers like Dancy, who would lose their most convenient alibi and face the threat of prosecution.

But Brian wouldn’t budge. Law enforcement should just do a better job of investigating these cases with the tools they have, he said.

It’s Hard to Get Good Help These Days
Regarding the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle that Muhmammad and Malvo used in the Beltway killings, Brian told me he still isn’t sure how it left his store. Bushmaster delivered the rifle to Bull’s Eye on July 2, 2002. Two Bull’s Eye employees later told investigators that they first noticed the rifle missing from a display case in August or early September. The first murders linked conclusively to the rifle occurred in mid-September at liquor stores in Maryland, Georgia and Alabama. Brian did not report the weapon missing—as required by federal law—until two weeks after the snipers’ arrests in November.

Lee Malvo would later tell authorities that he shoplifted the Bushmaster from Bull’s Eye. Brian had a different theory to share with me. He believes one of his employees took the rifle from the store and transferred it to Muhammad and Malvo off the books.

Brian believes he first met Muhammad and Malvo at a gun show in Washington many months before the sniper shootings. They came to his table to inquire about AR-15-type rifles and Brian referred them to an associate of his who was well versed in those firearms. He thought it might be possible that this individual was involved in the illegal transfer of the Bushmaster XM-15.

That was not the only employee that Brian had a problem trusting, however. He told me one horror story after another … One pair of employees he hired became involved romantically and conspired to steal his clients and open a new gun store … Another was embezzling money from Brian by keeping a calculator on top the cash register and ringing up transactions off the books …

To his credit, Brian did require new employees to possess a concealed carry permit in Washington (to demonstrate that they had passed a criminal background check). While not a perfect screening mechanism (such permits are only renewed every five years and it’s unclear how often state authorities check permit holders’ records to see if there is cause for revocation), there is no federal or state requirement in this area, so Brian took this step voluntarily. He also told me he wrote to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the main trade group for the gun industry, requesting assistance in performing more thorough background checks on his employees. They never responded.

Despite these efforts, I found it hard to imagine that this much malfeasance had taken place at Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply without Brian’s knowledge. The showroom is just one large room, with the owner’s office sitting directly adjacent. Was Brian minding his shop at all?

I was also aware that it wasn’t only store recordkeeping that was an issue for Brian during this period. The record shows that Brian failed to file a partnership tax return for Bull’s Eye from 1994 to 2001. But he also failed to file personal income tax returns between 1995 and 2001. He was eventually indicted for tax evasion and pled guilty to a single charge. At that point, he agreed to pay back taxes, penalties and interest for all the counts alleged in the indictment—amounting to $230,884.

President Harry Truman used to keep a famous sign on his desk in the White House that read “The Buck Stops Here.” I’m still trying to figure out where the buck stopped at Bull’s Eye.

“They Stole Your Freedom”
During a conversation about self-defense, Brian threw me a curveball. While asserting his belief that citizens have the right to be armed in public against would-be criminals, he informed me that he had stopped carrying a concealed handgun twelve years ago. His reticence stemmed from an incident when he was jumped in a parking lot by two unarmed young men who mistook a hand gesture that he made. He told me that he spent most of his energy during this brief confrontation defending his own handgun (which he wore in a waist holster and never drew). Thankfully, he was able to subdue the men and prevent them from gaining access to his firearm until a nearby security guard arrived on the scene, but the encounter changed his thinking about concealed carry.

I told Brian I had thought a lot about this topic myself after being mugged in my neighborhood in the District a year ago. I was accosted by two young men (who may or may not have been armed) who took my wallet, cell phone, iPod, and work bag and left me unharmed to walk home to my family. To Brian, the equation was simple—these criminals were “terrorists” who had “stole my freedom.” I granted that I lost my freedom for about a minute, but while I was scared by the incident, I didn’t quite feel terrorized (I was walking in my neighborhood again the very next day and have been ever since).

I also wondered what might have happened had I been carrying a concealed handgun. These guys grabbed me seconds after I first spotted them turning a corner. Would I even have had time to draw a gun? If I was carrying a gun but didn’t draw it, would they have found it on my person and taken it from me, potentially using it against future victims? If I had drawn a gun, could they have overpowered me and taken it from me? What if I had fired a handgun in that type of tense situation? Did these young men deserve to die for stealing my property? And if I had missed my target(s), where would the bullets have gone? I was in a residential area with houses on all sides, mere feet away from where I stood.

I told Brian I had a difficult time imagining any positive outcomes that might have resulted from my being armed during that encounter.

Cause and Effect
That afternoon at the Bull’s Eye indoor shooting range, I underwent safety training and fired four handguns (.357 Ruger revolver, Glock 9mm, Sig Sauer 9mm, Ruger .22 caliber), a shotgun (Mossberg 12-gauge), and an assault rifle (Hi Point 9mm). It was my first time firing anything more powerful than an air gun, and I took to it pretty quickly, grouping most of my shots in fairly tight circles on the targets. I was awed by the power, lethality and accuracy of these firearms—particularly the Hi Point rifle, which had little if any recoil and which I was able to rapid-fire with great accuracy (placing 10 or so shots in the eye socket of the target). It was easy to see how even a teenager without any formal firearms training could become an efficient killer with such a weapon.

Brian was clearly a skilled shooter and proud of his range’s role in training gun owners. He also asserted to me that the range was great for kids, because it taught them patience, discipline and “cause and effect” (i.e., that there are consequences for their actions). On that point, I wasn’t so sure. It’s one thing to blow holes in a paper target; completely another to shoot another person and witness the damage that bullets can do to the human body. I was worried that having fun at the range could have the opposite effect and desensitize kids to the enormous damage that firearms can do.

I was reminded that John Allen Muhammad himself had once practiced at the Bull’s Eye range, honing his marksmanship. He had also reportedly practiced shooting with Lee Malvo—then just a boy in his mid-teens—in a backyard on South Proctor Street in Tacoma.

His Own Worst Enemy
The greatest irony of Brian’s story seems to be that—for all his concerns about street criminals and the damage he has endured in past assaults—it is his own criminal actions and the alleged actions of corrupt individuals that he himself employed that have had the greatest negative impact on his life. On one level, I had a great deal of sympathy for Brian. He clearly was proud of building Bull’s Eye into a profitable business in the late 1990s and devastated at losing the store and his reputation in the wake of the sniper shootings. On another level, it really bothered me that he never expressed any sympathy for the victims and survivors of those attacks, who suffered far worse than he did.

I was also dismayed that he refused to take ultimate responsibility for the guns that were lost or stolen from his store. When I asked him, “If you could go back and do it again, what would you do differently?” he said “nothing” other than that he would have kept a smaller staff once the store began to profit (presumably of those who were most trustworthy). As usual, it was a way to avoid his own culpability regarding the reckless manner in which his business was run.

Just before I left that day, Brian told me he had filed a lawsuit and was seeking to regain his FFL. It was still his dream to be a successful gun dealer. I told him that if he got his license back, I would move to Washington and handle his books. I was joking—I have no bookkeeping experience to speak of—but sadly, I was also certain that if tasked with that job, I would do it right and make sure the store presented no threat to the public. In a better world, well-funded trade organizations like the NSSF and National Rifle Association would step in and work directly with gun dealers to make sure they are running their businesses responsibly (as opposed to turning a blind eye to negligent conduct). But I’m not holding my breath.

Despite my disappointment, I enjoyed my time with Brian. I think he put it best when he said we were able to “come together as human beings rather than political or ideological rivals.” Unlike so many gun rights activists I deal with on a regular basis, Brian was always civil, and eager to engage in polite conversation on a number of topics. Demonizing him would be easy, but he treated me with great hospitality and listened to what I had to say—even when I was critical of him. It left me with hope that we might have more in common than we realize and that—if we’re willing to listen—we might ultimately find some things to agree on that can make us all feel more secure about this world we live in.


  1. And if the weapon had not been stolen from Bullseye, then what? It would have been stolen or bought elsewhere.

    I fail to see how Brian is responsible for these acts any more than a car dealer who sells a car is responsible when someone who has bought a car from him drinks and drives and kills someone.

    I've never met Brian, and probably never will, but making him responsible in any way for the acts of others seems completely ridiculous.

  2. Anonymous--

    Possibly. But it begs the question: why make it easy for criminals to obtain such weapons?

    The story also underscores the fact that many gunowners don't seem to want to take responsibility for their weapons.


  3. Ladd,
    As you requested, I will help you correct the facts in this blog. I recognize many of them from the main-stream news articles that were written for the purpose of putting an industry face on two murderers' crimes.
    Thanks again for having the courage to experience the shooting sports first hand - you are an excellent shot.
    Thankyou also, for offering this open forum with which to exchange views and experiences. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. To do a complete job, will take some time.
    Brian Borgelt

  4. JadeGold, let's say for the sake of argument that the weapon was reported missing. How would that have affected the outcome?

  5. Thanks for your comment, Jeremy. I think I can answer that question given the detailed conversations I had with Brian.

    Brian was having problems with his staff before the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle disappeared from Bull's Eye in the fall of 2002. Had he reported that gun missing immediately after it left his store, it would have given federal, state and local law enforcement an opportunity to come in and question Brian and members of his staff to find out how the rifle had gone missing. We know from subsequent interviews that at least two members of his staff noticed that the Bushmaster had disappeared. Had authorities been notified, they might have been able to identify the day the rifle went missing and who was working at that time. Remember, too, that Muhammad was not an unknown quantity at Bull's Eye. Borgelt and several members of his staff had met him previously and Muhammad had practiced shooting at the Bull's Eye range.

    But the larger point here is that irresponsible business practices at Bull's Eye allowed the rifle to go missing in the first place. Brian himself apparently didn't even know the rifle was missing until months after the fact, and he still cannot say with any certainty today (six years later) how it left his shop. This staggering lack of inventory control at Bull's Eye put the public at direct risk. - Ladd

  6. Thanks for this respectful column. Most pro-gun/anti-gun articles are angry and focus on hyperbole rather than content.

    The DC "sniper" killings were a type of murder difficult to prevent via any reasonable gun restrictions, because while the gun used was a semi-auto any hunting quality rifle would have worked. A comprehensive AWB, total handgun ban, ammunition limitations, etc. wouldn't have helped -- the shootings could have been accomplished with a single shot bolt action rifle as easily as the weapon chosen.

    I certainly appreciate your attempt to have a discourse with "the enemy," but I'm not certain why you think the NSSF, NRA, or any other private organization would take care of policing vendors. We have the ATF to do that, and in this case they pulled his license for his mistakes/crimes.

    And likewise, I don't see why Brian should feel personally responsible for his actions -- any more than a car salesman would feel responsible for a car he sold to someone who later got drunk and ran someone over.

    Thanks again for the interesting post.

  7. Thanks for your comment, One Sensible Progressive. I think the issue in this case is dealer responsibility and not the implementation (or lack of implementation) of certain gun control laws in Washington or on the federal level.

    I think most Americans would look at this case and find it completely unacceptable that a gun dealer was able to lose 238 guns from his inventory in a period of just a few years.

    We all might have different standards for what constitutes "responsible" business practices, but that certainly isn't it, and the consequences for the public were terrible. - Ladd

  8. Ok, ladies and gentlemen, I can take a beating, but the regurgitation, from mainstream media, of erroneous facts and numbers is not doing this discussion any justice. If we are going to get to the truth in this matter, we are going to have to muster the courage to accept real facts that may not suit our preconceived positions.
    Simply put: If there were no violent criminals, there would be no violent crime. That is an over-simplification of the issue that is violent crime, but so is your understanding, Ladd, of what it entails to own and operate a large, independant, highly regulated, retail business of any kind.
    We're not talking about a static inventory like a museum or an armory such as the BATF's, which is missing over 70 unreported firearms. We're talking about a river of commerce, 7 days a week, with over lapping shifts, and mounds of paperwork.
    As I told you in our meeting, we worked closely with law enforcement, using our time, money, and paperwork, to take down real bad guys.
    I can clearly see, that it is going to require the writing of a book to correct what the media did to turn an investigation into a biased attack on my industry.
    I'm convinced that others involved with the so-called DC Snipers, have been completely overlooked because of this debacle. I have boxes and boxes of evidence and research that I have compiled for this effort - it's time to get started.
    Brian Borgelt

  9. Thanks Brian, I can assure you that if you do write a book, I will be one of the first to buy it! - Ladd

  10. I'm pro-gun rights and an IDPA competitor and what Brian let happened puts responsible gun owner's/FFL dealer's to shame. He needs to be locked up. I don't understand how 238 guns can go "missing". Let's say each gun could have been sold legally for $500 each, multiply that by 238 and you get $119K! Brian is a rogue gun dealer and knows what's going on in his store. In my opinion I'd place more restrictions on customer's wanting to look at rifles and handguns i.e. I'd make a door that has to be "buzzed" to be let open to go in and out of the store, sales people should not ever leave a customer alone with any firearm whatsoever and the customer has to give his/her license to the sales person in order to look at a firearm, the license will only be held and no info about the customer will be taken unless that customer tries to steal the firearm. When's the last time anyone heard of 238 car's going missing from a car dealer's lot? Brian's posts confirm that he still doesn't want to take responsibility for his IN-actions as well as his actions.

  11. I have experience in retail where hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchadise goes out of stores. You keep track of your merchandise through inventories done on an annual and semi-annual basis. If it's done for books it can surely be done for firearms. Also there are magnetic strips which can be placed on items which must be appropriately demagnitized before the item can leave the store. Also higher end items were placed away from customers where staff would be forced to take responsibility to take it to customers and put it back.

    Shrink (stolen merchandise) is a drain on a business's productivity. I'm a little surprised that the store owner wasn't paying more attention to his financial bottom line.

  12. The statement from above:

    "And likewise, I don't see why Brian should feel personally responsible for his actions -- any more than a car salesman would feel responsible for a car he sold to someone who later got drunk and ran someone over."

    is not an entirely accurate example. Here is a more accurate example: "...Any more than a car DEALER would feel responsible for a car THAT WAS STOLEN BY someone who later got drunk and ran someone over."

    Although I will agree, as a very pro-gun individual, that while it's difficult to keep on top of everything in a big gun shop, at the same time, after more than 2 or 3 disappeared I would have done some serious investigative work.

    And I doubt the firearms were ever going out the front door, it's a bit difficult to walk out the door of a business while hiding a full size rifle. I'm quite sure they were going out the BACK door. There were several criminals involved in this tragedy, besides the ones who pulled the trigger.

    While it is clear to see the bias in this blog post, at least there is some civility to it. The extreme hyperbola solves nothing. The post certainly has an agenda, but it does bring up some valid points, chief among them is that the ability to employ extreme force demands extreme responsibility. If you are going to own firearms, then you have a duty to keep them under your control at all times. And if you are going to carry one you need to take PERSONAL responsibility to train yourself in self defense, at ALL threat levels (from a shoving match to an armed confrontation) and be able to escalate and de-escalate force appropriately. That said, there are many police officers who are not capable of this. It does take some sweat and work, but it is very necessary. The firearm is not going to jump into a confrontation and defend you all by itself, any more than a hammer is going to leap up off the table and build you a house. Either tool requires skill to use it properly.

    I doubt anyone would board a commercial aircraft if they knew the pilot had just recently figured out how to get a plane in the air, so why would someone carry a firearm if they barely knew how to make it function properly? If we, as firearm owners and users, are not willing to take personal responsibility for them, then we have no business complaining when the government steps in and takes too much control. The government always over-compensates for people when they fail to act responsibly, the current financial scandal being a pithy example.


  13. I'm left speechless that a gun dealer didn't realize 234 guns were missing. How do you lose track of that many guns? I'm even more astounding that parents let children go to the gun range to practice shooting with firearms. What is wrong with these parents?

  14. There's nothing wrong with taking your child to learn how to shoot. I take my nephew, who's 16, and teach him how to shoot once a month. How do you expect anyone to be proficient if they don't practice? Haven't you ever been to a gun range "anonymous"? By the way, my nephew is quite good at shooting, of course that is at stationary targets. I plan to take him to his first IDPA match next month. "Anonymous" should try going to an IDPA match as a spectator first and see how much fun it is.

  15. Rudy,

    Why on earth would your nephew or any child need to become proficient in gun use? Can't you find some other extra circulum activity that does not include a deadly weapon?

  16. A very interesting piece you wrote there Ladd. I can understand your mixed feelings regarding Brian. I think, based on the type of products involved here (guns / weaponry), such people MUST be responsible to some extent for their inventory, albeit nowhere to the extent of the murderers themselves.

    His losing his license seems way overdue, but such policing, is not likely to be well funded (as you mentioned), since such people are, at the very worst, indirect, negligent accessories to murder. I suppose if such violence were to occur repeatedly from the same gun dealer, then a criminal punishment would seem to be in order.

    It's nice to know you're trying to be constructive on this issue.

    Agreeably, it seems like the NRA should do much more in helping the legal users of guns to prevent the illegal users of guns do what they do. A conflict of interest is inherent there, since guns in the hands of non-criminals are a likely deterrent, if not an end (at times) to criminals, but still, it seems like they could be a much bigger help (based on your info).

    I'm a little suprised to hear how you got mugged, and that since you were fortunate enough (it's strange to say being mugged and being fortunate at the same time) that you weren't physically harmed, that you're glad you weren't in possession of a gun.

    Yes, a lot could've gone wrong there, but so much more could've gone wrong to you if you were less fortunate. No matter what level of self-defense one knows, a gun could've possibly protected you (not just your life, but your possessions).

    Thank g-d you're stil alive (and a proud papa to boot!).

    P.S. Bear in mind, I don't own a gun, but I think about getting one on occassion. I hope, in a way, I never feel compelled enough to do so.

  17. Anonymous, you would have to be a gun enthusiast to understand. It’s a skill that only get’s better with practice and one that can save your life in a deadly confrontation. That is what I’m teaching my nephew, how to defend himself with a firearm and how to use it properly so he doesn’t hurt anyone else besides the threat(s). Martial Arts are no match against a handgun in a fight. It's a great way to relieve stress and when you get a bunch of others to go it’s literally a "blast". Shooting requires more skill and concentration than you think. Especially when you shoot a rifle from 50yds and beyond where trigger control, breathing, wind direction and how fast the wind is plays a critical role in accuracy. I got back from an internet forum meet, TX Gun Talk and TX CHL Forum, where four of us shot at clay target’s 100yds away until they were obliterated, mind you we were using Russian bolt action Mosin Nagant’s, 7.62x54, that kick’s like a mule and I have the bruises to show for it! My nephew didn’t go because he was with his father that weekend. I plan to take him next time. Have you ever been to a range Anonymous? Shooting is a lot more fun than you think. Of course you might actually find out you like to shoot and are good at it like Ladd found out. I wonder if Ladd ever plans to go shooting again. Ladd, the next time we have a gun meet shoot get together would you like to go? It would be in TX of course, San Antonio/Austin area. Or how about anyone else that would like to go?

  18. Thanks Rudy, if I'm ever headed down that way I will get in touch with you. I'm sure I will shoot again at some point. I'm not sure how fun I found it, but it was very interesting, and I could certainly see how it was a skill that could be improved with practice and discipline. I also really enjoyed getting a chance to talk to Brian and hear his views. It is not often that we get to spend "quality time" with those on the other side of this issue and get to know them on a more personal level.

    In terms of the debate about kids and guns, I'm a bit more cautious on this one. I think that requires very careful and responsible adult supervision. I think an adult in that case also needs to be keenly aware of any emotional or mental health issues that child/teen might have, lest that knowledge one day be used to do harm.

    We are still devastated here at the news of the death of this 8 year-old boy who was killed at the gun shoot in Massachusetts. - Ladd

  19. Ladd, very nice work. As an owner, my firearms are locked away safely, the ammo locked away separately.

    To answer "Anonymous'" question about why would anyone want to take a kid to a shooting range - I feel for you fella. I would never get on you for spending time with your kids cutting out paper dolls. If that's what you're into, fine with me but who the heck are you to tell me what I should or should not do with my son?

    When I was 8 or 9, my dad would take me to the gravel pits near our farm and set up targets. The very first lesson my dad ever taught me, before he even taught me to stand and aim was how intensely dangerous guns are and what a tremendous responsibility it is to just hold one.

    I was taught to never point a loaded weapon at anything that I did not intend to kill. Although my dad and I hunted, I never even drew a bead on an animal, I had no desire to kill anything, I just loved being out in the woods with my dad.

    The lessons learned about safety, responsibility, love of the environment, patience and being still and quiet are the reasons why someone might want to spend time shooting with their kid.

    Sure these lessons can be taught in other ways and will be but it's not "Anonymous'" business. His disdain for tradition and parental choices is typical. Just because it's not his bag means it shouldn't be an option for anyone else.

    Alright enough of that loser. Ladd, just like there are criminal lawyers and doctors, there are criminal gun-shop owners (I'm not saying Brian is one, and I have no idea what it entails to run a shop like his but it seems to me that he's clearly negligent in letting even one firearm escape without noticing). I agree that penalties should be greatly increased and enforced on anyone who misuses firearms.

    The owners of firearm stores don't need any more federal regulations imposed on them, they don't need help from the NRA. What they need is to have a standard of personal responsibility and the fear of losing liberties if they fail to report stolen weapons or are found guilty of serial sales to known straw buyers.

    An entity that sells weapons has more responsibility to the public than a car dealer, no question.

    Don't limit mine or any other law-abiding citizen's right to buy, collect, or otherwise own as many guns as we want. Instead, why not focus on the enforcement of existing laws that would put criminals behind bars and deter their use in crimes?

    Imagine the great reduction in gun crime if there was a mandatory life sentence (in solitary confinement!) for anyone using a gun in a violent crime. Criminals might still commit these crimes but once convicted, they'd never be free to revisit such acts again on the general public and the deterrent rate would be much higher.

    Anyway Ladd, great column, very thoughtful and thought provoking.

  20. Thanks for your comment Mark. I think the problem right now is that, under existing federal regulations, gun dealers have no "fear of losing liberties if they fail to report stolen weapons or are found guilty of serial sales to known straw buyers," as you put it.

    The problem is that the NRA redefined the law in a 1986 bill to require the ATF to demonstrate "willful" violations of the law by gun dealers before revoking their Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). The result is that ignorance of the law now operates as a full defense for corrupt gun dealers. ATF has to warn and meet with these corrupt dealers on multiple occasions until there can be no doubt that they were fully briefed on all the particulars of federal law. That is the chief reason why Brian stayed in business for so many years after ATF first cited him for recordkeeping violations (i.e., missing firearms).

    This would be the equivalent of police catching me jumping out of my neighbor's window with his new HD TV, me telling them "wow, that's illegal?" and them sending me on my way without any fine or criminal charge.

    You expressed concern about laws that "limit mine or any other law-abiding citizen's right to buy, collect, or otherwise own as many guns as we want." I'm still trying to figure out how any threat would posed to truly law-abiding citizens by: a) requiring background checks on all gun sales, b) requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen guns, and, c) requiring gun dealers to know federal law and be accountable in their business practices from the day they receive their FFL. By your own definition, these are steps that responsible gun owners are already taking on their own volition. - Ladd