Pawnshop does big business in guns

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 22, 2002

Nick Horne waves a hand in the direction of a truly imposing rack of rifles standing against one wall of the Big Easy Gun and Pawn Shop.

Horne owns the Big Easy. In Selma, a good many of the people who, for one reason or another, want to buy a gun sooner or later find themselves at the Big Easy. Shotguns, rifles, pistols &045;&045; the Big Easy stocks a little bit of all of it. And if they don’t have it today, check back. They’ll probably have it tomorrow.

Horne estimates that guns make up roughly 15 percent of his total sales. Most of his sales come from the other items he handles &045;&045; the big screen TVs, the lawnmowers, the stereos, tools, jewelry, microwaves, pressure washers, computers, guitars and cars.

What people do with those guns, Horne isn’t sure. He doesn’t ask. Some, like Horne, are avid hunters. Some are collectors.

Some are looking for a way to protect themselves.

Horne isn’t sure how many of his customers purchase a gun for personal protection, but he thinks not many. And he thinks he knows why.

Horne ticks off a number of cases in which homeowners have been prosecuted for shooting an unarmed burglar &045;&045; even though the burglar had broken into their homes.

Horne knows that when most people hear the word &uot;pawnbroker,&uot; they picture some shadowy figure who does business in the back of a dark, poorly lit building and who traffics mostly in stolen goods. And he is willing to concede that perhaps there was some truth to that image at one time. But not anymore.

That, he insists, is old school pawnbroker.

He notes that pawnbrokers today must adhere to a number of strict legal requirements about how they do business. For example, pawnbrokers are required to file a list with the police department each day of all items they take in, complete with a description of the item, the serial number and the driver’s license number of the person who pawned it.

He notes that statistics indicate that most guns used in the commission of a crime do not come from legitimate gun dealers. The vast majority are stolen.

Federal law requires that anyone wanting to purchase a gun must first undergo a background check. Applicants first fill out Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms form 4473, which asks whether the applicant is currently under indictment and whether he has ever been convicted of a felony or a charge of domestic violence.

Dealers then phone a 1-800 number which connects them to the National Instant Check System. The system searches police and FBI files using the applicant’s name, date of birth and Social Security number.

Only after the background check comes back negative can the purcahse proceed.