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Missouri gun shop owners discuss ATF warnings, penalties and Biden’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 10:13 PM CDT
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CASSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - President Biden is leading new efforts to put an end to violent gun crime, with a major focus on cracking down on lawbreaking gun dealers. It has caught the eye of gun dealers across the state.

Biden announced a new “zero tolerance policy” for gun dealers who violate federal laws like background checks.

“It’s zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations,” Biden said. “My message to you is this - we’ll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.”

Biden said that includes dealers who “willfully” sell guns to people prohibited from possessing them, fail to run background checks, falsify records or fail to cooperate with tracing inspections.

Instead of issuing warnings, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will now revoke dealer licenses on first offenses.

Some local dealers said that could be a complex process.

”It would be tough on the agents then if they have to get to a zero tolerance policy,” Quick Draw Gun owner Brad Hawkins said. “As well it would really make it almost impossible to do business. It’s human nature, there are going to be mistakes. If they are looking for clerical errors as an issue, it will make doing business very tough.”

Brad Hawkins owns two shops. He just opened one in Cassville a few months ago. His shop in Monett received a warning letter from the ATF back in 2015 after it opened a year earlier. He said he took it very seriously as a new gun store owner.

”As a new dealer it’s easy to make mistakes and over the course of a year I had assembled quite a few little minor mistakes, as most of it was clerical errors,” Hawkins said. “I had the wrong brand on a gun. I had the wrong caliber or name or mismatch of an address.”

A handful of other shops in the area are in a similar boat, including ones in Springfield, Nixa, Lebanon, Neosho and Stockton that received letters between 2015 and 2017 as well.

Hawkins suspects they were likely similar situations.

“We looked through that, and obviously there’s a lot of warnings,” he said. “And most of those are very similar to me to my situation where it was just a misunderstanding and clerical issues.”

Since his warning, Hawkins said he has still had the usual inspections but has not had any issues. He said he and many of his colleagues in the business take the rules very seriously.

“If we put the gun in the wrong hand and something bad happens, we are liable for that,” Hawkins said. ”I have dealer friends all over the state of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and every one of us is doing the best we can everyday to stay legal, stay within the bounds, make sure we’re not putting guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. We all take this very seriously and take great pride in doing it the right way.”

While he and other dealers have their concerns with some regulatory proposals, Hawkins said he certainly respects the need for oversight.

”There are cases where dealers do things wrong,” he said. “And honestly those dealers should lose their license. I mean they should lose them immediately.”

President Biden’s plan also focuses on providing money to cities that need more police as well as offering community support.

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