Would You Buy a Gun from a Store that Gave Your Name to the Cops?

Ammoland.com ran a story on a Wisconsin gun shop that has, since 2009, been handing the names of its customers over to the local constabulary, allowing The Man to look for criminals. Brew City Shooters Supply (BCSS) in its previous incarnation as Badger Guns, had been a source of straw purchased guns that later turned up in crimes. The, um, open book policy exists as part of an attempt to reform the reputation of the business . . .Wisconsin Carry is not amused:

Wisconsin Carry rejects the use of public resource to run background checks on law abiding citizens with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion whether those citizens were using a firing range, attending church, going to the grocery store, or stopping in a corner tavern for a cocktail.

I can see how this is a creative way to reform a business that had developed a bad rep. No gun shop owner wants to sell to a criminal, but candidly, straw purchasers can be hard to catch. I could buy a gun a week and never raise any suspicion, what with my good looks and abundant charm. It might be years before I was busted for being a straw purchaser, and only then after a gun is recovered as evidence at a crime scene. By then, the bad thing would have already happened.

Best case scenario is someone buys one gun a week. The first week: “Pleasure doing business with you – enjoy your Hi-Point nine.” Second week: “Another Hi-Point nine, huh?” Third week: ATF cuffs the perp. That’s a best case illegal straw purchaser bust, yet two guns are already in the hands of criminals. Brew City’s Shooters’ policy of running names past the cops has a certain logic to it if you want to repel the criminal class.

That said, what’s missing in this burst of civic responsibility is that only the social evil is being accounted for. As economic theorist Frederic Bastiat noted in his broken windows fallacy, no one considers what has not been seen. We see the two cops who have been shot, we do not see the two shop owners who repelled a deadly stickup just by having a gun.

The central premise of the bad reputation this gun shop acquired is that the social good of self-defense and responsible firearms handling nurtured at their gun range is outweighed by the social evil brought about by guns that made their way out in their shop and ended up in the hands of criminals. I’m not convinced this calculation is correct – I invite the Chief of Police to please show his work.

BCSS is in a part of town that has seen better days. Checking it out on Google Maps, it looks just like the area where the only public gun range in the city of St. Louis is located. I truly wish more people in urban areas – where the need for self-defense is most acute – would spend more time at a range and taking responsibility for themselves. In the process of keeping out the riff-raff, how many honest citizens are being turned away and what’s that cost? While we can see the drop in BCSS guns getting in the hands of criminals, we will never see the crime that wasn’t prevented.

It’s not my gun shop. And I can always take my happy ass up the road where the shop owner isn’t so cozy with The Man. My beef is that this policy of sharing names with authorities isn’t made clear on the website and apparently not spelled out for their members. Also from the Ammoland article:

Having spoken with members of WCI who frequent Brew City Shooters Supply, though they were aware they signed a liability release to use the range, they were NOT aware in any way that their use of the range was being reported to West Milwaukee Police Department.

The local po-po have no business running any kind of check without probable cause. It will be interesting to see if their clients agree.

comments

  1. avatar Viper26 says:

    Does the business openly let customers know, BEFORE the purchase and exchange of personal information, where the information will be going? If so, then the purchase decision and consequences are the customers choice. If not, then I would put forth that the entire enterprise is an illegal and unconstitutional 4th Ammendment violation, as the owner is collecting possible evidence without a warrent at the behest of law eneforcement. I say “at the behest of law enforcement” because he has established a long term pattern of doing it and is therefore acting as their agent.

    Ultimately, just like Chick-Fil-A, if you don’t like the business practices, then don’t shop there. They will either change their processes, ignore you, or go out of business.

    1. avatar Viper26 says:

      Oh, and personally, if I knew that ahead of time, I wouldn’t spend my money there. If I found out they did it after, I would sue them.

      1. avatar racer88 says:

        Agreed. If it’s not spelled out in the range consent / agreement, then it’s a gross violation of privacy by the range, and a 4A infringement by LE.

        1. avatar gabba says:

          are you saying a background check is a search of your private property?

        2. avatar Greg Camp says:

          Gabba, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s barely tolerable for a carry license. My personal information is my property, and until we all force both government and businesses to respect that, this country will continue violating all of our rights.

  2. avatar Aharon says:

    “been reporting the names of every customer that comes in to use their firing range to the West Milwaukee Police Department.

    Having spoken with members of WCI who frequent Brew City Shooters Supply, though they were aware they signed a liability release to use the range, they were NOT aware in any way that their use of the range was being reported to West Milwaukee Police Department.

    We do not know if Brew City Shooters Supply also provided the names of customers who came in to purchase ammunition to West Milwaukee Police.”

    1. avatar IdahoPete says:

      Hard to believe BCSS still has any customers – obviously, the marksmanship community is failing to get the word out. General rule: buy your ammo with cash. And when they ask for a name and phone number, tell them you are Eric Holder and make up a phone number. Or give them the name and number of your liberal neighbor.

  3. avatar BlinkyPete says:

    Nope.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    nope. and this is why it’s good, if you have the option to spread your business amongst more than 1 retailer. i use 3 ranges and 4-5 shops in the bay area and of course internet shopping for some ammo.

  5. avatar إبليس says:

    Never. I avoid all interactions with police as much as humanly possible.

    1. avatar Agitator says:

      +1 on that

    2. avatar Will says:

      The cops have better things to do than waste their time peeking their nose into my business every time someone wants to drop my name in their laps for any purchase or legal usage of anything.

      I’d rather they be busy getting real (not imagined or potential) bad guys, so I’d rather not use up their time frivolously, like this or in any other way.

      1. avatar matt says:

        They’re not wasting their time. There is a surplus of police, what else do they have to do?

  6. avatar JSIII says:

    The next step beyond this would be the cops showing up and questioning law abiding citizens why they purchased so much ammo or this and that gun. Harassment of lawful gun owners as a measure of intimodation. I would never do business with this place.

  7. avatar JSIII says:

    The next step beyond this would be the cops showing up and questioning law abidong citizens why they purchased so much ammo or this and that gun. Harassment of lawful gun owners as a measure of intimodation. I would never do business with this place PERIOD

  8. avatar JSIII says:

    The next step beyond this would be the cops showing up and questioning law abidong citizens why they purchased so much ammo or this and that gun.
    Harassment of lawful gun owners as a measure of intimodation. I would never do business with this place PERIOD

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    What, you don’t think that your range gets after-hours visits from the po-po and gives up your information faster than a six year old gives up his lunch money to the schoolyard bully?

    Do you think that all the info on your 4473s magically disappears from the federal records?

    Do you think that Jeremy Alcede is the only one in the firearms business who would sell you out in half a heartbeat?

    Never underestimate the willingness or ability of your fellow man to stick a knife in your back.

    1. avatar LeftShooter says:

      “What, you don’t think that your range gets after-hours visits from the po-po and gives up your information faster than a six year old gives up his lunch money to the schoolyard bully?”

      Ralph, that’s why I belong to a range which has 24x7x365 operating hours. No downtime in which to dance with the gendarmes! 😉

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        @LeftShooter, I gotta get my heinie over to your range. 24/7/365 is awesome.

        1. avatar LeftShooter says:

          Come on up! RF has my email, send me a note and we’ll arrange something.

  10. avatar ST says:

    That part of Wisconsin is a very liberal area of the state.

    I believe in parts of America where gun stores are located in anti-gun cities, there may be a La Cosa Nostra-type arrangement in place: either an FFL could , ahem, “voluntarily” turn over customer data to LE…. or the city cooks up a BS violation and hits the gun dealer with a lawsuit and a $100,000 fine if the FFL holder is in a stingy mood .

    1. avatar matt says:

      That part of Wisconsin is a very liberal black area of the state.

      Fixed it for you. Milwaukee is blacker than Chicago. According to Wikipedia it is 40%, compared to Chicago’s 33%, or the WI state average of 6.3%.

      1. avatar matt says:

        and “…Milwaukee [is] home to nearly three-fourths of the state’s black Americans.”

    2. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      Just can’t help yourself, can you Matt.

      1. avatar matt says:

        So it is ok to associate people for gun control with a particular political ideology, but not with race?

        1. avatar Austin says:

          No it’s not. Pretty ignorant and downright fucked up on both counts.

  11. avatar Tim McNabb says:

    I don’t think I would do business with these guys, though I think they have a right to do business however they want, including sucking up to The Man.

  12. avatar Mark N. says:

    The problem isn’t that this place turns over personal informaion from people who BUY firearms; that info is included in the 4473 anyway. What they are doing is turning over info on people who are just using the range, both those who rent guns and those who bring their own. According to the article, arrests have been made for felony possession of firearms by people using the range who shouldn’t be, which I guess is good, but on the other hand I have to question the legality. Normally it would raise no legal issues, but when it becomes a regular business practice or a condition of licensure, then it is an illegal search. If any lawyer gets a charge thrown out for the invalidity of the search, I thik this practice may dwindle.

  13. avatar mblakely says:

    I have no problem with this, or doing business with BCSS, I have nothing to hide. The range cannot be expected to run a background check when you sign that piece of paper and hand them your ID that says things like you’re not a fellon, you won’t rapid fire, or sue them if something goes wrong. The range business while profitable, is not an easy low liability business. You could not pay me enough money to loose my hearing and risk my life to work at a gun range.
    Side rant: I can’t stand when people take pictures at the range with rental guns, it’s stupid and a little bit dangerous, plus you look like a mall ninja.
    It’s strange to me that some ranges don’t want to see tax stamps, and others request the stamp before you shoot. If ranges don’t start policing customers someone else will.

    1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      “I have no problem with this, or doing business with BCSS, I have nothing to hide.”

      This is an interesting perspective. I don’t have anything to hide either, but then again if I wanted to be an open book, I would post it online, I suppose.

      I don’t think “nothing to hide” is a good long-term attitude. Concepts like “probable cause” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” exist because the state has a serious advantage against the individual. I would not give up anyting to the state – they have a lot already.

  14. avatar Joseph says:

    Hi,

    This is an old question so I’ll give it as short of an answer as I am able to…I would not mind allowing a gun store to give the cops my info… However I would also prefer to have all of the same info of all the government employee’s/cops that will be handling my stuff… As it is now the local cops get the info anyway because of the local ordinances but I believe that it should be fair and if it was something to go national I think that my preference be added to the bill just so everyone will know who has there information… In truth if someone wants your info bad enough like killing they will find a way… I also believe that the cops and the fed’s already have everyone’s info so what the hell does it freaking matter anymore…

    Thank ya all for your time…

  15. avatar Leo Atrox says:

    I don’t like it, but it wouldn’t necessarily preclude my use of their services. I understand and respect the opinion of others who find this practice boycott-worthy (as registration and reporting IS the logical first step in a plan to ultimately confiscate firearms). I’m just not one of them. Ultimately, it would come down to if I had other affordable options in my area. If I didn’t, they’d get my business whether they were reporting me to the police or not.

  16. avatar bontai Joe says:

    When I lived in the People’s Demokratik Republik of NJ, I had no choice, all gun purchases made at the retail level were reported to the local and/or the state police. I actually saw an officer look up my file on his ‘puter with every firearm I had ever bought in the state listed. One of the MANY reasons I am glad I escaped across the Delaware (evading the bridge trolls) to PA where democracy sorta still lives. I don’t think that now I’d be happy to have all my firearms, ammo, and range time purchases logged into a police data base, mostly because the local police are not above corruption themselves.

  17. avatar GS650G says:

    Anyone who ever privately sells a gun could be accused of being a straw buyer, therein lies the rub.

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