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.

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26 Responses to The Responsibility and Costs of Selling a “Crime Gun”

  1. I’ve mentioned several times on TTAG that Chuck’s Gun shop in Riverdale, IL sells a lot of guns used in crime. And I believe they are NEVER at fault. It sure hasn’t made them immune to lawsuits,picketing and having the ATF go over their records with a proverbial fine tooth comb. Honestly don’t know why they want the headache having a ghetto gun store…

    • I imagine they want to help people to be able to protect themselves. I’m sure that it is this largely unnoticed and unsung work that they strive for.

    • “Next on the list, blaming car dealerships for selling cars to drunks.”

      Then they reply – “Passenger vehicles aren’t designed to *kill people*!

      And we respond – “True, in fact many millions are spent yearly, many *billions* spent over the past 100+ *years* for auto safety since driving began, and they STILL kill tens of thousands annually.”

      The Left wants to hold gun manufacturers liable for ‘gun violence’. I say fine, as long as car makers are held liable for drunk driving injury-death…

      • An object’s utility is not done away with by the fact it possess another utility. Motor vehicles are “designed” with the “intent” of getting people from point A to point B. The fact that they do this well does not take away from the fact that they do indeed make great weapons. Auto manufacturers and dealerships make and sell cars knowing they have been used as weapons in the past and probably will be used as weapons in the future.

        • With regards to “intent” and “design,” a wise man a NASA once said “I don’t care what anything was DESIGNED to do. I wanna know what it CAN do!” (emphasis mine)

          I have designed and built numerous projects across the spectrum of stuff. When I do that, I think outside the box, and use materials in manners they are neither designed nor advertised for. That is because I too only care about what something can do. Intent is irrelevant. That being said, naturally I still use many items for their designed intention because it works.

  2. Just being audited can shut your business down for days.

    I have not been involved in firearms audit since the army but have been through two tax ones after ex put in false complaints about my business. Took nearly two weeks the first time to comply with the “requests” for very old paperwork with business shut for a week and almost three months to be cleared.

    The location of Chucks does seem to be a bad choice though.

  3. “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.”

    If your database isn’t run by someone who can handle the basic SQL to add such a check you’re going to be losing a lot of money even if nobody commits a crime with a gun you sold. Both from government regulations that concern all finance and lost opportunities from failure to utilize your data.

  4. I sell guns for a big box store, and while almost all of my customers are as pure as the driven snow, I’ve had a couple of customers who seemed sketchy to me. I didn’t turn them down, but I made the process more arduous than it really is and they left sans guns.

    If I sell a gun to a bad guy who does something bad, there are ramifications. If I don’t sell a gun to someone who seems like a bad guy but isn’t, there are no ramifications.

    To me, the choice is pretty clear. Sadly. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. I do.

      • Sketchy is hard to define, or better yet, it means hard to define (wanting in completeness, clearness, or substance). It generally means that something is “off” about the person that you can’t put your finger on. Sometimes normal people look sketchy and sometimes bad people look normal.

        When I lived a literal pedestrian life, I would examine people at least a block away to determine whether or not they needed extra attention. I once categorized a woman as normal. When she got closer, she propositioned my gay neighbor, another guy, and myself for sex in exchange for money.

  5. Has there or is there a need, to ask where any weapon, regardless the weapon, came from after is what used in a crime? Seriously.

    A man beat a man to death in a bar fight. Where did the man come from? His parents. Civil suit against the mother and father?

    A person bludgeons another with a rock, or large tree limb. Where did they come from? Nature. Civil suit against nature? Civil suit against the person who planted the tree?

    A person runs over another with their car after they’d been drinking. Where did the car come from? (Insert your favorite or least favorite auto maker). Civil suit against (inserted auto maker)?

    I can do this with anything. Yet, each formentioned item is not arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and placed in a prison. With what, is not the problem. Who, is the problem.

    I shoot a man with a gun, that I bought from store, after I drove to the store to obtain the gun, and drove to the location in which I shot the man.
    The man whom I shot, broke into my home. Civil suit against the company who built my house?

    • Can you imagine the lawsuits against Louisville Slugger alone? Nevermind every hardware store thats ever sold a tire iron or a heavy length of chain…

        • You do know that is just because Coke etc. have deep pockets and a rep for paying off race war lords. Jessie Jackson perfected the race version of that, to the tune of several million dollars in his own pockets, in fact, I think Coke paid him off at least once.

  6. The fact of the matter is that in most cases, the crime isn’t committed by the original purchaser. Crimes are more often than not committed with a firearm that was either stolen or purchased through a straw buyer, the latter being less likely for the common variety criminal (unless it’s a hi point) since, after all, a stolen gun is free (and far more difficult to trace).

    With that in mind, how often can we even realistically lay the blame on a dealer, when they have absolutely no inkling about the buyer or the gun’s eventual end user(s)? It’s all just a play by the antis to drive gun stores out of business. Why else would they want to repeal the protections afford gun stores (as well as all dealers of legal products)

  7. I feel like when I was caught on the kiss cam at Minute Maid Park. Then, as now, I’m not hatin’ it. Tell it to the world.

    In response to Dan’s parting gem “If you’re selling a legal product legally, yes. Yes you can”, I’ll defer to the words of Marco from Tropoja: “Gooood luck.”

    Big kiss, Dan. *MUAH*

    • “I feel like when I was caught on the kiss cam at Minute Maid Park.”

      Did your wife watching at home catch you? 🙂

    • Whenever I go to a sporting event with my sister, I’m worried they’ll put us on the kiss cam. I don’t know why. It’s not like I can’t kiss my sister on the cheek.

  8. So how does this map over to an individual selling to another person? Some form of sales invoice seems warranted to prove you no longer own it, but the same amount of grief seems expected. Am I correct?

    And what about the other way? Buying face-to-face from a person (not involving a FFL), where the weapon MAY have been used in a crime. How does one look into that before its too late? Obviously a $150 Kimber would seem too good to be truly owned by the seller’s friend of a friend, and in dire need to sell it. At night. In the alley…

    • Try to buy any gun at night, in an alley and you’re likely not leaving the alley with the gun, your money, and maybe not even your life!

  9. Moral relativity and the complete inability of the left to philosophically rationalize anything. If a guy sells a knife and a guy when on a stabbing spree in Portland Oregon with it and killed two and wounded one – does anyone care, at all, where the knife came from???? Nope! If A guy sold a shovel to guy that later buried a body with that shovel would anyone care, at all, where it came from??? Nope. But guns?? Yep! Because guns. More leftist insanity.

  10. In the early 1980’s had a woman come in the store and ask if she could buy100 Raven MP-25 pistols at retail for cash. She offered that, she was starting a shooting club was going to give members a free raven. I went in the the back and made two phone calls, first one to RSR to make sure they had 100 Ravens on hand, and secondly to the local BATF office to see what they had to say. RSR had then in stock and, BATF. said sell them to her, and make damn sure the 4473’s and multiple sales forms were filled out correctly and sent in. Sure as shit about 3. weeks after the sale the serial number trace requests,started to pour in. They had ended up in New York City. ATF was happy to have an easy bust and that was the end of it.

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