I was out to lunch [sic] recently when I got a call. Not wanting to deal, I sent it to voicemail and listened to the message. The caller was someone I’d met at the gun club years ago, someone who used me for some transfer and sales transactions over the years. Before I give you the 411, here’s a little life advice for you younger kids: poor people don’t like problems. Rich people REALLY don’t like problems. OK, so . . .
He’d purchased a machine gun — somewhere in the high five to low six figures — from a reputable dealer. The gun shipped to a dealer near him (near me too, but not me).
Initially, my competitor’s business was run well, cutting my margins and eating into my bottom line. They thought they would make millions of dollars in the gun industry $20 at a time. NFA transfer? $20! New allocated item? $25 markup! Accessories? AT COST! We want customers for life!
When business slowed in Q1 the owner took the money, guns and leaves his partners holding the bag (to seek his fortune as a truck driver in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota). They have an 8,000 square foot firearm business without anyone who knows how to fill out a 4473 or do a background check.
The wheels left the wagon in a hurry. The whole place basically shut down and ground to a halt.
As for pending ATF forms, the partners had no clue what cans were for what customer, who’d paid up or who was on lay away. Into this fustercluck arrives a pristine and virginal machine gun. They didn’t even know who it was for.
The machine gun owner eventually goes down to my competitor and demanded some action. So they bang out a Form 4 for him — never having filled out a Form 4 before. The ATF sends the forms back to the dealer due to errors in paperwork. Nobody knows what the problem is. Nothing happens. The ATF’s standard protocol: if the forms aren’t fixed and returned in 30 days they’re automatically rejected.
At this point, well-heeled machine gun guy goes from pissed off to straight-up Howard Beale.
I try to calm him down. I explain that the question isn’t “Can I fix it?” The question is “Can you afford for me to fix it?” I gotta open a file and bill by the hour. I wish I could tell you this doesn’t happen often but this shit happens all the time. And it’s never a simple fix.
Before I hang up the phone, I asked the aspiring machine gunner why he hadn’t called me in the first place. He said the other guys seemed like a bunch of good ol’ boys that didn’t mean him no harm. Their fee seemed reasonable — at the time.
On the way back to work, I stop at my competitor’s place of business and tell them that I’ve been hired (a la Winston Wolf) to fix the full-auto catastrophe they’ve created. I give them a copy of my license and tell them I expect forms to be filed with ATF by close of play. They seem to agree. I tell them to call me if they can’t figure out how to sign their own name. I’ll personally hold their hand as they make their state-legal “X”.
When I got back to my desk, I opened the file and did some thinking. I conclude the following: know what your time is worth. Had I been asked to handle this last year, the owner would have had his gun by now. As it stands now, who knows? All this trouble and expense to save a few bucks.
The next time you buy a gun from a big box store or some online dealer, remember that every gun comes with a business attached. Buying the “right gun” should also mean buying the “right dealer”: a reputable, knowledgeable, responsible businessman. Doing so can save you time, money and, most important of all, aggravation.