Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strange exchange with woman in the gun shop: "Illegal guns?"

Short but very strange conversation with a woman in the gun shop as she and her three small to medium-sized kids waited for her husband to get his check cashed:
Woman: Do you sell illegal guns?

Me: Huh? (I'm fairly deaf and I wasn't sure I heard her right.)

Woman: Do you sell illegal guns?

Me: Uh, ma'am, that would be illegal.

Woman: Oh.
It took me a day to digest that conversation, but tonight as I chatted with my wife, I told her about the strange exchange and it dawned on me what I think was going on. This woman was apparently used to seeing guns bought and sold that were illegal (translation stolen) and therefore were always cheaper than "legal" guns, which is hopefully all we sell at the shop.

We do occasionally get calls from law enforcement tracking a stolen firearm that was sold at our shop and I've only been in this business since January so I haven't seen a stolen firearm get sold to us yet, but I'm sure it happens. We have no way of checking whether a gun is stolen when we purchase it. There is no national database of stolen firearms accessible to us, so when someone sells or pawns a gun we pretty much have to take them at their word that they own it legally.

And if a stolen gun does get purchased by our shop and law-enforcement later finds we have it, guess what happens? They take the gun and we're out whatever we paid for it. So if there was a way to check whether a gun is stolen, we'd do it. We do require an ID to either sell or pawn a gun, so if it turns out to be stolen, we can at least point law enforcement to the culprit.

If I was writing up a list if FASQs (Frequently Asked Stupid Questions) for the shop and for our gunbroker.com customers, that strange exchange would be right at the top of the list.

Here's a few other email FASQs from some of our gun show and gunbroker customers:
Q: How many rounds have been fired in this (used) gun?

A: The previous owner said "very few." (So far nobody has sold us a used gun yet and said, "I shot the hell out of it.")

Q: I bought a 9mm pistol at the gun show and when I asked for a box of ammo, you sold me a box of 9mm Luger. (I can't make this stuff up. That question came from a man who signed himself as a Lt. Col. in the CAP, which is a civilian organization, the Civil Air Patrol. He's a real Lt. Col. like a Kentucky auctioneer is a real Colonel.)

A: 9mm Luger is the same as 9x19, regular 9mm ammo.

Q: Is this gun new or used? If it's been fired, how many times? (This question is always asked about a new firearm listed on gunbroker. So I use quotes around the red and boldface text from the auction listing page first and then elaborate in case that isn't perfectly clear.)

A: "Item Condition Factory New", "New In Box:" Brand new in the box straight from the factory to the distributor to us. We didn't fire it. It may have been test-fired at the factory, but since the factory doesn't provide a fired cartridge casing for this model, I don't know for sure about that. I do know it's been in the factory box unfired since we got it.
But it don't matter how stupid the question is, the customer is always right and we always answer all questions politely. Stupid people buy guns, too. Now ain't that a scary thought?

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