Charlottesville-Area Gun Sellers Diligently Working to Prevent Illegal Sales
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The number of people arrested trying to illegally buy a firearm in the commonwealth has gone up over the past two years. In 2016, Virginia State Police arrested 1,360 people. In 2018, that number almost reached 1,500. NBC29 talked with two central Virginia gun shops about why they think that number has increased and what they're doing to ensure guns stay out of the wrong hands.
"A lot of the safety starts right here," Albemarle County Firearms owner Mike Brookman said.
Walking into Brookman's gun shop is a little difficult.
"You need to be able to give that presence of, ‘yeah, I might not go to that store’ just by the look of it and the safety of it," he said. "My worst nightmare is to get a gun out there on the street and to a felon’s hands, so that's why we take our security pretty seriously."
Tobey Bouch is the owner of Tobey's Pawn. Both he and Brookman say their shops are doing more than what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives require to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.
"The truth is there are instances where even the regulations wouldn't catch someone: it’s called a ‘straw purchase’," Bouch said.
If a person walks into Tobey's Pawn or Albemarle County Firearms to buy a gun and brings someone with them, they'll make both people complete a background check. If the buyer is talking on the phone while looking at the guns, they'll often deny the sale.
"When they come up to the counter there's certain questions that we ask, and there's certain things and body language we look for," Brookman explained.
"If it’s very obvious they're purchasing it for someone else, we'll shut it down," said Bouch.
While the number of arrests has gone up, these two shop owners say their extra questioning and security measures to catch these criminals should give people some comfort.
"It should give people a little bit of a comfort knowing that they're being arrested and they're being taken off the streets if they're trying to get a firearm somewhere else," said the pawn shop owner.
Federal firearms licensees are also required to keep a 20-year paper trail of documents related to the sale of a firearm. This helps ensure state police can trace guns that were used in crimes back to the shops where they were bought.