Shepherds and “Straw Purchases”

 Friends, neighbors, customers, His children,

 Facebook has many times inspired in me a willingness to respond, quip, or engage. My friends know I love a little light banter. One of the wonderful things about Facebook is that I can engage in this banter with people from all walks of life, some of whom I do not even know. In fact, I owe this post to two people I do not know and may never meet. 

 Chris began by posting a video captured in a gun shop. The video is, at best, an incomplete story. Then, Brandon posed a question about a potential “straw purchase” where my business is involved. (A “straw purchase” is when someone with a valid FOID card buys a firearm for someone without a card—someone who may even want to use the gun in the commission of a crime.) So, here we go…

 I put a great deal of value on personal responsibility, and I expect a lot from others. I won’t speak to the content of the video, but I will respond to this question posed to me by Brandon: “So how will you handle yourself if a black FOID owner attempts to buy from you and you strongly suspect it’s for someone else?” 

 My Federal Firearms License has legal responsibilities in this area, and those responsibilities are non-negotiable. The moral implications are far-reaching. The State of Illinois has granted the holder of a FOID card the privilege of gun ownership. The key word here is “privilege.” A FOID card is much like a driver’s license in Illinois, and holding a driver’s license is also a privilege that comes with responsibilities. We have a right to bear arms. This is put forth in the US Constitution and its amendments, and that right would provide me with blog fodder for the balance of my lifetime! But I want to focus on the privilege and responsibilities that come with that right and how I balance those in my business.

 So, my answer to today’s question is twofold. First, I will address how I “handle myself” with people who wish to purchase a firearm, and then I will discuss “suspicions.” Handling myself is the easier of the two. I always ask myself, “What would Christ do?” I believe I have a responsibility to shepherd those God has placed in my path (another future blog post). When I talk to a person about buying a firearm, the following questions can reveal many things:

  1. Why are you buying now?

  2. Why are you buying this make, model, and caliber of firearm?

  3. How will you be using the gun?

  4. Is this gun for your personal use?

  5. How will you store the firearm?

  6. Do you have other guns?

  7. Which one is your favorite?

 The buyer might think I am nosey or maybe just very inquisitive, but actually, I am not only looking for a straw purchase but also for any nefarious intent, insufficient training, lack of safety knowledge, and, of course, prospects for additional sales. (I run a business, after all, and building relationships not only feeds my extroverted spirit but also means repeat customers!)

 Now, if “suspicions” arise as a result of these questions, then it is time for a pause and a little quick reflection. I need to ask myself these questions:

  1. Is this suspicious feeling driven by cultural stereotypes or personal experiences?

  2. What, specifically, is it about this person that I am seeing as “a red flag” (or flags)?

  3. Is this “sense” I am feeling my issue or theirs?

  4. If this person were a friend of a friend, would I feel differently?   

 These questions cause me to reflect on my own possible subconscious biases or fears. Self-examination is always a good thing because it helps us grow and become better people. Of course, if I find a solid basis for my suspicions, I would not continue with the transaction.

 I have and will continue to attend the regional seminars on best practices offered by both the Illinois State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). These seminars are vital to staying current on laws, best practices, and trends affecting my business. They also offer insights into how to spot straw purchases and shut them down. Continuing education is an integral part of professionally representing the business, the sport, and the passion surrounding firearms.  

  Refusing service to a customer is not something that should be done haphazardly. We are all God’s children and deserve fair treatment. That said, it is also true that we don’t all need to own a gun. However, refusing service to someone for the wrong reasons is disrespectful and, in some cases, illegal. I have pledged to always do my best to treat people as Christ would and to attempt to run a business that promotes safety, enjoyment of the sport, and the protection of innocent life.