Would You Like Hol­low Points With That?

Three days be­hind the gun counter in Las Ve­gas

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - FOCUS ON / MOBILE - By Paul M. Bar­rett Pho­to­graphs by John Fran­cis Pe­ters

Jay and April Randazzo are look­ing at a Glock 43, a sleek lit­tle 9mm six-shot pis­tol de­signed for peo­ple who take their gun with them to work and on er­rands. Jay plans to ob­tain a Ne­vada con­cealed-carry per­mit that will al­low him to keep the Glock in a hol­ster when he makes his rounds as a Coors de­liv­ery-truck driver. “Bet­ter safe than sorry,” he tells me af­ter agree­ing to be in­ter­viewed. April al­ready owns a larger Glock 19, which she keeps at home. They pay $419.99 plus tax for the Glock 43. “It doesn’t mat­ter whether you live in a gated com­mu­nity or not,” April says. “There are bur­glar­ies all the time.”

As a sta­tis­ti­cal mat­ter, Las Ve­gas en­joyed a 48 per­cent de­cline in crime from 2004 through 2014, the most re­cent year for which sta­tis­tics are avail­able. The bur­glary rate de­clined 37 per­cent dur­ing that time; the mur­der rate, 44 per­cent. That said, Las Ve­gas has a higher-than-av­er­age vi­o­lent crime in­dex com­pared with other large cities.

“I hate that fear sells so many guns,” Hop­kins says. In fact, his ad­ver­tis­ing stresses in­se­cu­rity. “Your home is your cas­tle. De­fend it against the bar­bar­ians,” said one re­cent West­side ad for a $599.99 Smith & Wes­son M&P AR-15 ri­fle equipped with a 30-round Mag­pul mag­a­zine. Asked about the con­tra­dic­tion, Hop­kins says, “In the end, I guess I’m just a cap­i­tal­ist.”

Most of the ri­fles on West­side’s racks are mil­i­tary-style semi­au­to­matic AR-15s, which ac­com­mo­date 20- or 30-round mag­a­zines. Th­ese weapons fire one round per trig­ger pull, as do semi­au­to­matic pis­tols. Pop­u­lar with mass mur­der­ers for their large ammo ca­pac­ity but rarely turn­ing up in or­di­nary street crime, AR-15s are used legally for com­pe­ti­tion, home de­fense, and, to some de­gree, hunt­ing. When lib­er­als talk about ban­ning as­sault ri­fles, they’re re­fer­ring to AR-15s.

Dur­ing my time in the West­side Ar­mory, only one cus­tomer in­quires about a ri­fle: A pro­fes­sional vi­o­lin­ist brings in his AK-47 to get the scope ad­justed. He says he uses the semi­au­to­matic gun, which de­rives from the fa­mous Rus­sian mil­i­tary model, for tar­get shoot­ing at lo­cal ranges. “I don’t know much about how it works,” he ex­plains. The scope gets fixed at no charge.

Hop­kins has a Fed­eral Firearms Li­cense, or FFL, to op­er­ate West­side Ar­mory. FFL hold­ers have to per­form back­ground checks; gun trans­fers by un­li­censed sellers don’t re­quire a back­ground check. Hop­kins’s em­ploy­ees need no spe­cial li­cense or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to work at the store. West­side also has a spe­cial fed­eral li­cense that al­lows it to assem­ble and sell fully au­to­matic ma­chine guns, which can fire a stream of bul­lets for as long as the trig­ger is de­pressed. Un­der U.S. law, ma­chine guns can be sold only to law en­force­ment agen­cies or other hold­ers of the dif­fi­cultto-ob­tain li­cense. As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, or­di­nary cit­i­zens can’t pur­chase a ma­chine gun, but there are about 150,000 in pri­vate cir­cu­la­tion among li­censees. Crimes com­mit­ted with ma­chine guns are al­most un­heard of.

Hop­kins di­vides his time be­tween the store and a sep­a­rate am­mu­ni­tion-sup­ply busi­ness he op­er­ates. He re­cently pur­chased the trade­mark for a long-de­funct hol­low-point ammo brand called Su­per Vel, which he plans to re­vive with retro ’60s pack­ag­ing. “For some peo­ple, nos­tal­gia sells guns and ammo, just like it sells cars or cloth­ing,” he ex­plains.

The per­sis­tence of de­mand for firearms in the U.S.

be­comes the sub­ject of a get-to­gether at the store with Stu­art An­der­son Wheeler, a vis­it­ing fel­low big-game hunter who runs an epony­mous busi­ness in Lon­don that man­u­fac­tures be­spoke hunt­ing guns. An­der­son Wheeler finds Amer­i­can gun cul­ture per­plex­ing, es­pe­cially the shrill tone of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. “I mean, all the talk of ter­ror­ism and shoot­ings—it’s pretty ex­treme. Can they be se­ri­ous?” he asks. “They know what sells,” says Hop­kins. “I’m all for guns,” An­der­son Wheeler re­sponds. “But how many does a per­son need?”

“You Brits don’t have our tra­di­tions,” Hop­kins says. “To Amer­i­cans, own­ing a gun is a con­nec­tion back to the set­tling of the Western fron­tier: cow­boys and In­di­ans and all that.”

“And fear,” says An­der­son Wheeler.

Hop­kins and his em­ploy­ees un­fail­ingly do back­ground checks but ad­mit the pro­tec­tions aren’t fool­proof. The back­ground check be­gins with cus­tomers fill­ing out ATF Form 4473, which re­quires them to swear they aren’t the sub­ject of a felony in­dict­ment or con­vic­tion; a fugi­tive, a user of il­le­gal drugs, or some­one who’s been “ad­ju­di­cated” a dan­ger to them­selves or oth­ers as a re­sult of “men­tal de­fect”; or the sub­ject of a dis­hon­or­able mil­i­tary dis­charge, a mis­de­meanor con­vic­tion for a crime of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, or a do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence re­strain­ing or­der. Also barred are aliens il­le­gally in the U.S. and any­one who’s ever re­nounced U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. Ly­ing on a 4473 is a felony.

Once the cus­tomer has signed the form, the gun store sales­man makes a phone call to the FBI or, in some states, in­clud­ing Ne­vada, to a state law en­force­ment agency that takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for comb­ing through com­put­er­ized crime and men­tal health records. The phone checks take any­where from 5 to 45 min­utes and yield one of three re­sults: pro­ceed, de­nied, or de­layed. A de­lay oc­curs when the FBI or state au­thor­ity wants more time to as­sess lo­cal records, which some­times are dif­fi­cult to find be­cause they haven’t been dig­i­tized. If a de­lay isn’t re­solved within 72 hours, fed­eral law al­lows the firearm sale to pro­ceed.

The po­ten­tial con­se­quences of com­plet­ing a sale af­ter an un­re­solved back­ground check were made clear last June in South Carolina. Dy­lann Roof, the man ac­cused of killing nine peo­ple in a his­tor­i­cally black church in Charleston, was able to buy the .45-cal­iber Glock pis­tol he used in the at­tack af­ter the three-day dead­line ex­pired. The FBI dis­closed in July that it de­layed the trans­ac­tion to scru­ti­nize Roof’s state ar­rest record. But the FBI ex­am­iner didn’t dis­cover Roof had ad­mit­ted to pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance—a ba­sis for de­nial of a firearm—un­til af­ter the three-day dead­line.

Re­gard­less of the 72-hour rule, West­side Ar­mory, like Wal­mart, won’t sell a weapon with­out a back­ground-check ap­proval. “It’s not worth the risk,” says Hop­kins. “Not all of my com­peti­tors fol­low the same ethics.”

More gen­er­ally, he says he in­structs his sales­men to re­frain from sell­ing guns to any­one they sus­pect may be up to no good. Store man­ager Brad­ford Barnes says he re­fused to sell a pair of hand­guns to a young man 15 min­utes be­fore clos­ing time last New Year’s Eve. “Didn’t smell right to me,” he says. “That’s just a weird time to go out shop­ping for two guns.”

Fortino, a West­side Ar­mory em­ployee, pre­pares a back­ground check

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain

© PressReader. All rights reserved.