Local gun shop owners weigh in on gun ownership, safety in light of increased permits to carry
—This is the final installment of a two-part series appearing in both the ECM Post Review and Isanti County News. Click here for part one.
The gun industry can become guilty by association following a senseless crime or major incident involving a dangerous person with a firearm.
Tom Borchardt has seen it before when such an event has occurred. In this country, he pointed out, talk of increased gun control and regulations typically follows as a knee-jerk reaction that can affect the livelihood of millions of people.
Borchardt and wife Joyce own Bullseye Shooting Range in North Branch. He asked rhetorically if they would be out of business after another gun-related event.
“We overcompensate in this country,” he added, “and it’s downright depressing with Congress and everyone throwing laws and bills around.”
Borchardt is critical of this abrupt reaction, due in large part to his passion for the industry, responsible gun ownership and teaching others to do the same while enjoying the shooting sports.
More people, nationwide and locally, have been exercising their right to renew gun permits and bear arms, particularly handguns, as evidenced in an increase of applications for permits to carry between 2012 and 2013.
Isanti County Sheriff Bill Guenther, said he supports individuals’ gun rights and has educated his own family to become responsible gun owners. He said he feels people in the county are responsible with their firearms for the most part and understands the demand in local carry permits.
“People just feel the need to protect themselves because the sheriff and police can’t be everywhere at once,” he said. “After the school shooting at Sandy Hook, it (permits to carry) really took off. People want to protect their kids.”
‘A higher standard’
Local gun shops and those that offer the training needed for permits to carry also have been busy — especially in the first few months following the Newtown tragedy, when people feared increased gun control was potentially imminent.
At Bullseye in North Branch, the Borchardts are certified NRA instructors and offer gun sales, ammunition and classes for beginning to advanced shooters.
Under federal law, Borchardt noted, he cannot sell a handgun over state lines, though hunting rifles can be sold to neighboring states. If someone from Wisconsin wants a handgun, for instance, it must be shipped to that state and picked up at a federally licensed dealer.
For state residents wanting to buy a handgun, Borchardt said the customer must present his or her permit to carry and a driver’s license. Then they fill out the Firearms Transaction Record form, called a 4473, as a record of the buyer. The key question on the form, according to Borchardt: “Are you the actual buyer of the firearm?”
“The answer must be yes or I can’t sell it,” he said. This prevents straw purchases — that is, buying for someone who cannot legally possess a gun.
“We can refuse to sell to anyone; we pay attention,” he added.
Once the form is signed and dated by the buyer, Borchardt will run it through a federal database on his computer to see if the transaction can be finalized. Once the database is checked, the gun shop will receive one of three directives: proceed with the sale, delay or deny.
“If it’s a proceed, we go ahead with the sale,” he said. “If it’s a delay, the feds have three days to resolve the inquiry. We can proceed with the sale after the third day, but if the federal search comes back with a deny, they (federal authorities) will go retrieve the gun themselves.”
If your gun is lost or stolen, report it to the police, Borchardt insisted.
One course at Bullseye fits the criteria for a Minnesota carry permit. They also teach personal protection outside of and inside the home, home firearm safety and basic and first step pistol, rifle and shotgun.
Bullseye also offers a permit renewal course, which meets the training requirements for the renewal application for the Minnesota Permit to Carry. Course completion must be within one year of an individual’s renewal application. People can apply up to 90 days prior to their expiration date and pay the renewal fee.
Borchardt said he’s instructed people who have admitted to not knowing some of the common rules that come with carrying a firearm, such as how to handle an intruder.
“‘They never told us that,’” he said of some of the comments he’s heard.
He noted that while instructors must submit their class outline to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for approval, he wonders if some are truly teaching to that outline.
“There’s a lot of inconsistencies in what is being taught out there,” Borchardt said. “Part of the problem is we have some people who want a permit to carry and have never shot (a handgun). For our class here, people must already know how to fire a firearm.
“We have a higher standard. The public is watching, and gun owners need to be extremely responsible. Every time someone screws up, it reflects on the whole gun ownership community.
“Hardly a week goes by when someone says they could get (the training) cheaper elsewhere. There’s a lot of good instructors out there, don’t get me wrong, but we always have people who just want the permit and be done with it as cheap and unobtrusive as possible. You get what you pay for. If you don’t have all the right information, you’ll go out and make a mistake,” he added.
For the required shooting test at Bullseye, the rule is students must use a .380-caliber pistol or larger.
“A better score with a .22 is not the issue,” he said.
Gun safety at school
Borchardt believes gun safety training should be incorporated into the school curriculum.
He supports the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which teaches children in pre-kindergarten through third grade four steps to take if they find a gun. The steps are presented by the program’s mascot, Eddie Eagle, in a memorable format consisting of the rules: “If you see a gun: Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.”
The training should continue as the kids get older, and the Department of Natural Resources also can help with teaching gun safety classes as part of the curriculum, Borchardt said.
As for whether teachers should be armed or not to help prevent an act of violence in a school building, he said, “Not all instructors, but a few who are willing to do it.”
Firearms for home protection
For the better part of his 21 years in the industry, Jim Walters has owned S.H.R. (Shot Guns, Hand Guns and Rifles) Sales near the intersection of County Road 5 and the railroad crossing in Isanti.
He has found people are becoming more aware of what it takes to own and carry a firearm. It’s a different time than when their parents grew up. Crime is an issue, and people are trending toward wanting a gun for personal protection against intruders in their home, he explained.
Walters estimated that around 80 percent of his sales has to do with home protection.
“I have seen a definite increase in gun ownership,” he said, noting the months following the Newtown tragedy were especially busy. “I carry what people want, and permits are needed. I will sell eight or nine (assault-style rifles) for every typical rifle. Handguns are popular because they’re small and easy to conceal. We’re in a big gun community.”
Changing times also has meant changes in the gun industry. Gun storage, for instance, has “changed immensely over the last 10 years. No more sock drawers,” Walters noted.
Yet owning a firearm doesn’t end with the business transaction at the gun shop or even regular practice. People are advised to plan ahead so they’re ready to handle a situation.
“Plan ahead for major events,” Walters said. “For preparedness at home, have a plan and practice that plan like it’s a fire drill.”
He also urges gun owners to stay sharp in their shooting skills on a regular basis. People should practice shooting 50 rounds or a box of ammo a month to stay fresh in their skills, he said.
“If you don’t practice, (a gun) is a useless and potentially dangerous tool,” he said. “It’s like riding a bike or cooking — the more you practice or do it, the better you’ll be when it counts.”
For more information or questions about gun permits, contact the Minnesota BCA, 651-793-7000; Chisago County Sheriff’s Office, 651-257-4100; or the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, 763-689-2141.