FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – You wouldn’t put a gun in the hands of a criminal. But an ATF expert says that’s exactly what happens when a gun store allows a straw purchase. It’s when one person buys a gun just to pass it on to someone else. Back in May, the I-Team found five stores willing to do this.
But CBS 11 Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal found, for at least one store, our story was a big wakeup call.
In May, we found several North Texas companies suggesting they’d allow us to buy a gun for someone who might not pass a background check. After our story aired, ATF agents went back and audited the stores’ gun inventories and retrained employees on federal gun laws.
Despite asking them several times, ATF has refused to speak with us on-camera about straw purchases. They’d only confirm they planned to visit the stores we investigate.
But several store owners confirmed just a few weeks after our I-Team story aired, ATF agents scrutinized their records for nearly a week and their employees were all retrained.
“Do you feel like she made a mistake?” Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal asked Dan Foster, owner of three Uncle Dan’s Pawn Shops around Dallas. Our undercover camera caught one of his employees agreeing to sell me a gun, even though she knew we was planning to give it to someone who might not be able to pass a background check.
“The lady might have misinterpreted during customer service as well not judging everybody… that she might have made a mistake,” Foster answered.
Foster says our story was a wake-up call for him and his employees. Since it aired, he’s put a new training policy in place for anyone that handles guns.
“So, it’s going to be a repetitive thing, It’s going to be two hours a month, per employee,” Foster said. “And new employees will definitely be going to four to five hours, six hours of training before they can even go and touch a gun.”
“Straw purchases is the number one way criminals get their guns,” Tom Crowley, ATF expert noted.
Crowley is a retired ATF agent that spent 25 years dealing with issues like straw purchases.
“Straw purchases are a very big problem,” Crowley added. “It’s been going on forever. That’s how a bulk of criminals get their firearms.”
Crowley says the agency works with limited resources and funds — and the best way they can prevent straw purchases is to work closely with store owners and employees. He commends Uncle Dan’s for admitting there was a problem and working to make it right.
“They’re responsible for their employees. That’s probably the most important one. It’s their license, and they can lose it,” Crowley clarified.
Because the I-Team never purchased a gun during the undercover investigation a straw purchase sale was never complete. So, none of the stores were cited or penalized. But Uncle Dan’s owner tells us he’s moved his clerk out of gun sales.
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