In our Quote of the Day post yesterday, we noted the response of Tampa Arms Company owner Thom Hauser when asked about the consequences of selling a gun to someone who later uses it in a crime. He averred that where the responsibility lies in those cases is a fine line, one that prompts “difficult conversations.”
In the real world, what happens when a crime — especially a notorious one — is committed with a firearm is a little more complicated than simply assigning “blame.”
If you’re an FFL who happens to have sold a gun to someone who does something terrible with it, you’re sure to deal with a sh!tstorm of recrimination — in both your business and your personal life — even if you’ve followed the law to the letter.
Just ask people like Ed Henson of the St. Lucie Shooting Center, across the state in Florida.
“Blame” combined with the bad publicity may not be where it all ends, either. Commenter Jonathan-Houston had this to say about all that:
First thing everyone, including authorities, wants to know when a crime is committed is where the gun came from. There’s an entire tracing aparatus set up to answer those questions.
[Pause here to interject the obligatory, emotional defiance, “But that activity doesn’t solve or prevent any crimes!” Done? Ok, now let’s return to material that is actually relevant to the discussion.]
In the real world, anyone can file a civil lawsuit for as little as about $300, regardless of their chances of prevailing. If they have some anti-gun group, or lawyer trying to make a name for himself to foot the bills, then you’ll need a lawyer to defend yourself.
Whether the seller knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that the buyer was a prohibited possessor is a matter of fact to be determined in court. Guess what? That’s another lawyer you’ll need! This time, a criminal defense lawyer.
It’s also illegal to sell a gun to someone whom you…what?…you guessed it: knew, or had reasonable cause to believe intended to use it to commit a crime. That’s another fact, and a slippery one at that, to be determined by a court. There goes your life savings, even if you’re exonerated. And there goes your freedom if you get a blubbering, easily persuaded jury.
Federal law requires licensed firearm dealers to alert authorities of repeat gun purchases when a buyer purchases two handguns from the same dealer within five days.
If you’re a decent sized store, you’re apt to have several different employees working the counter. I hope they all communicate perfectly or that you’ve wisely invested in an industry-specific point of sale system that can flag such transactions. Otherwise, that’s on you if the buyer ends up doing something that brings the ATF and FBI to your door.
Speaking of which, when they do arrive, expect them to shut down your business at least for days while they scour the place for evidence. On top of it all, there is the social stigma and personal anguish that can result from having sold a gun used in an infamous crime.
All of these and more are legitimate concerns and risks of the business. You can’t just wipe them away with a casual “well, the onus is on them.” The real world doesn’t operate as easily as that.
If you’re selling a legal product legally, yes. Yes you can.