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Gun store owner John Downs

Gun control advocates consider gun store owners “merchants of death.” They label store owners in low-income areas “bad apples” (when a small but above average percentage of their legally purchased firearms show up at crime scenes). In fact, gun store owners are law-abiding businessmen defending and extending Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Men and women who are unappreciated gatekeepers against criminals, crazies and terrorists. Ohio gun store owner John Downs [above] is one such man, as reports . . .

John Downs knows most of his customers who come in to his bait and gun store in Logan. But Downs said even though James Howard [below] passed a background check, he refused to let the guy purchase a long gun. Downs said Howard sounded like he was gearing up to harm himself and possibly others.

James Howard (courtesy

“I just said, ‘You know what bud, I have a really bad feeling about this, I just can’t sell you the gun,’” Downs, owner of Downs Bait and Guns, recalled.

Downs said Howard was angry when he left the store.

That wasn’t the end of it . . .

The former hockey player who lived in Athens, where Ohio University is located, returned an hour or so later.

Downs said he turned off the open sign, locked the door, called 911 and hid his customers in the back room.

“We loaded three guns up, and hopefully he didn’t try to come through the door, thank you Lord,” Downs said.

Right answer.

“He had a enormous amount of ammunition he was going to purchase, shotgun shells and 22-caliber rifle ammunition,” Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North said.

The sheriff said students’ and staff members’ lives may have been at risk since Howard already had purchased a gun at an Athens store.

“From what I know of the circumstances, I believe he did prevent a mass shooting that was probably going to occur at OU in Athens,” North said.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist at the Sheriff’s implication that Howard’s “arsenal” was the cause of the lawman’s suspicions.

Police say Howard reportedly entered a staff member’s office at Bird Arena around noon on Monday, shoved the staff member, and “attempted to strike him with a closed fist.”

They say he then left campus. Police were later told that Howard planned to buy a gun. OUPD obtained warrants for his arrest and notified surrounding law enforcement agencies for help locating him.

Police said the 25-year-old was a man with a “known history of mental health issues.” He’d previously been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility. After the gun buying episode, Howard was arrested on burglary and weapons charges.

For his quick thinking, righteous reaction and simply selling guns to law-abiding Americans, John Downs is our Gun Hero of the Day.

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  1. Good for this FFL! Gun control advocates are gonna ignore this of course. To them, FFL dealers are a virus.

    • they can only use it if the body count is high enough or its not minorities killing each other. a good story like this will never make it past the new baby lynx photos at the zoo. Meanwhile, a pair of bobcats is cleaning house on the local feline community, and we have not seen one of the barn cats for over a month. Life goes on.

      • Maybe thats whats happened to all the feral cats out here? I was thinking it was owls. Seen a bobcat behind the house last week and some really big cat tracks down on the river bank.Its so damned brushy my dogs cant get em treed

    • Actually, I could see gun control advocates pointing to this as a “near miss,” as the guy had a documented history of mental health issues, including an involuntary admission to a mental health facility… yet he STILL managed to pass the background check.

      This is a perfect case to illustrate the need for strict mental health reporting.

      • The good outcome in this case was not the result of good law but of common sense.

        Exceptional cases make bad law.

        More common sense among common people will make good outcomes like this more common.

      • Not really, because strict mental health reporting is too big an infringement on a person’s right to privacy.

  2. So he was involuntarily committed and his nics check came up clean. But we need more background checks.

    • This yet again. Like in Charleston, SC; California; and arguably Aurora, Newtown and VA Tech, even though they did not get to the involuntary commitment part. A p*ss poor job of enforcing the existing rules on known loons while demanding a new set of rules to demonize cosmetic features.

      • It’s a feature, not a bug. This way the argument can be made that existing laws don’t work, we need tougher laws.

        I’m thinking the affordable care act was designed with this mind. In another decade or so they can say “see how screwed up health-care is? We need a single payer”

  3. While it’s great that this guy followed his instincts, the point needs to be made that Downs was well within his rights to sell Howard the gun, and should not have been held responsible either way. The act of selling another individual legal goods and services can and should be protected regardless.

    The last thing I want normalized is FFL’s being held responsible for not “getting to know” the buyer or asking them invasive questions prior to releasing a firearm just because of some possible positive outcome. As a seller of goods you should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, but that doesn’t mean you have to be selective.

  4. Amazing. Experience and discression by a private business more concerned with safety than selling iron. A man with a Castle who has a Conscience and earns Coin and good will of his customers.

    No doubt somewhere a civil liberty lawyer will sue him for crapping on a citizens right to up gun while decending into madness.

  5. “Police said the 25-year-old was a man with a “known history of mental health issues.” He’d previously been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility. ”

    Glad to see that NICS check worked great! Imagine if we had universal background checks, how many more would be missed on a daily basis. /sarc

    This is one more case of how background checks are useless.

  6. So when the government properly flags in NICS as a prohibited possessor someone with a history of mental instability and blocks their firearms purchase, then that’s a 2A infringement and we’re living in a police state.

    Yet, when some guy behind the counter, with no professional training in mental health, with mere minutes of interaction with the would-be buyer, and no factual assessment of his legal or medical history, unilaterally and extrajudicially decides to block the firearm sale, then he’s the gun hero of the day?

    Draw the bullseye around the already-thrown dart, much? So much for the “Second Amendment purist” myth.

    • A free person has the right to sell, or not, whatever he darned well feel like, to whomever he darned well feel like. For whatever he darned well feels like. And for any reason whatsoever.

      The Government has (probably unfortunately, but what the heck….) the right to engage in a few, clearly enumerated activities. Nothing more. Preventing the free person mentioned above from selling to someone he darned well feels like selling to, is not one of those activities. Nor is mandating he does so.

      Free people exercising their free will to do as they please, does not violate neither decency, nor any amendment, nor the intention of any even remotely just Constitution. Government preventing them from doing so, does.

  7. Nice work, Mr. Downs! This goes to show an experienced retailer, gun owner and FFL Holder can make a difference in preventing tragic gun-involved violence. or. at least, the possibility thereof. I’ll agree with c4v3man, however, that the last thing I’d want is to have it become “normalized” for FFL holders to be held responsible for the subsequent bad actions of people they sell guns to. I fully support the right of retailers to refuse service and sales to anyone for any reason they see fit.

    BTW it has been my understanding that States are not mandated to report incidents of “mental health” issues to the NICS System and several States do not. Is Ohio one of those States? Some States use their own background check system to comply with the Federal Law and some use a Third Party contracted service. This results from the original “as enacted” form of the Brady Law. It may be related to HIPAA. So, it was no surprise that Howard’s involuntary commitment did not appear in his NICS Background check.

  8. Glad it worked out for the best.

    “We loaded three guns up, and hopefully he didn’t try to come through the door, thank you Lord,” Downs said.

    Being a gun store, I think he ought to keep a few ready to go.

  9. Most times the best solution to a problem is awareness, community, and culture, not policy, law, and government. A brick and mortar small business with a human being at the helm using his own discretion and instincts after a face-to-face interaction easily did here what politicians and policy can not.

  10. I saw this on CBS Evening News yesterday while channel surfing. The reporter kept talking about the 9mm rifle he tried to buy, while pointing at the Ruger 10/22 Takedown this FFL holder was showing her.

  11. While a good call ultimately, what makes this decision worthy of Gun Hero of the Day? Was it the overall demeanor of the guy or just the fact that he was purchasing large quantities of ammunition that made the store owner suspicious?

  12. If your Spidey senses are tingling then dont complete the sale. You have no duty to sell a gun or ammo to someone you think is going to do something bad with it. This guy probably saved at least one innocent person’s life. RIght on!

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