Mitchell Atencio

Friday, March 2, 2018

Arizona gun shop owner on retailers’ new restrictions: ‘I can understand why they did it’

PHOENIX – David LaRue, the owner of Legendary Guns Inc. in Phoenix, reclined in a back room of his shop on Friday.

After several major retailers this week announced their decisions to discontinue the sale of guns and ammunition to customers younger than 21 years old, it made LaRue wonder what he might do with his own shop.

David LaRue, owner of the Legendary Guns store in Phoenix, said he understands the decision of multiple retailers to ban sale of guns and ammunition to customers younger than 21, but he said he does not necessarily agree with it. (Photo by Daria Kadovik/Cronkite News)

“I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, but I can understand why they did it,” LaRue said. “And if the government changed the law to 21, I don’t think that’d be a terrible thing.”

“Conceivably, I’m even thinking about it myself, but I don’t know which way I’m going to go on it.”

Since the announcements, people have lit up social media. Some also suggested the these new policies would drive up small business sales.

LaRue said he was skeptical the moves would cause a boost to his business.

He said 18 to 21 year olds make up a small portion of sales, estimating they make up about 2 percent of his customer base at most. His shop has declined sales before, if employees find the behavior of a customer suspicious or worrisome.

“I would hope if somebody like (shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz) came in, we would spot him and we would decline the sale,” LaRue said. “We’ve done that in the past if somebody doesn’t look right, if somebody strange is coming up with the money to buy an expensive gun that you feel warning signs about, you discontinue the sale.”

David LaRue, the owner of Legendary Guns Inc. in Phoenix, said he’s thinking about what to do in his own shop after several major retailers announced their decisions to discontinue the sale of guns and ammunition to customers younger than 21 years old. (Photo by Daria Kadovik/Cronkite News)

Nikolas Cruz, the former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student accused in the Florida shooting, is 19 years old.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibited sales of handguns to anyone under 21, but it does allow for the sale of long guns. LaRue said handguns account for more than half of his sales.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, have supported legislation to raise the minimum age for purchasing rifles to 21 years old, according to The Washington Post .

However, LaRue said he felt conflicted over arbitrarily taking away the rights of someone who was old enough to serve in the military and die in service, but that his rights as an owner allow him to discontinue a sale for practically any reason.

“The (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has told us we can decline any sale without any legal liability,” LaRue said. “Even if a strange voice tells us … hopefully we wouldn’t go that far, but if we feel the least bit (of) caution on a sale, we would rather decline it.”

Bob James, whose company James & Guns Inc. supplies Legendary Guns with its “cowboy guns” – single-action firearms – said he didn’t see any issues with current gun laws, which allow 18-year olds to buy some firearms.

“More business for us,” said Bob James, owner of James & Guns gunsmithing business in Phoenix, regarding Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to ban sale of guns and ammunition to customers younger than 21. (Photo by Daria Kadovik/Cronkite News)

“We don’t get a lot of 18 year olds in here shopping by themselves anyway,” James said.

Both LaRue and James pointed to what they called failures of law enforcement agencies at every level for many mass shootings. LaRue said local law enforcement and the FBI should have taken action on the tips that had been called in prior to the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead.

“We’re very strict around here. We follow the rules, and they’ve been working,” James said. “So, what’s not working? Law enforcement’s not working.”

LaRue said when prohibited possessors do try to obtain a gun, the Department of Justice often doesn’t prosecute them.

“I don’t think we need more laws, I think we need to increase the efficiency,” he said. “We have plenty of avenues to stop this. If they don’t work, let’s have more change. But let’s at least see how (current laws) work.”

Following the policy changes by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, L.L. Bean and others, gun- control advocates have called for other retailers to institute similar rules. Advocacy movements like #BoycottNRA led to Delta Airlines and other businesses to end their membership discounts with the National Rifle Association. Georgia’s state Legislature punished the airline, cutting a tax benefit that would have saved Delta millions, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The NRA does not support raising the age of all firearm sales to 21, according to the Boston Globe .

Despite the rhetoric and national campaigns, LaRue remains confident in whatever decision he makes regarding an under-21 ban.

“I don’t feel (any pressure),” LaRue said. “If I think it’s a decision we should make, then we’ll do it.”

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