There's A Valuable Lesson In What Happened To The Gun Shop Owner Who Sold Nancy Lanza An AR-15

A customer approaches the closed Riverview Gun Sales shop on December 21, 2012 in East Windsor, Connecticut.
A customer approaches the closed Riverview Gun Sales shop on December 21, 2012 in East Windsor, Connecticut.

I have a friend named Dave LaGuercia who happens at the moment to be in a Boston hospital for a second round of surgery – let’s hope all goes well. I have known Dave since 2004 or 2005 when he opened a small gun shop in Connecticut just over the Massachusetts line. Dave had previously been in the car business as a broker, he had done quite well, but, being a gun nut, once he had some dough in his pocket he did what we all do, he bought some gun inventory and opened a shop.

One thing led to another and within three or four years Dave had moved to a much larger location and now had a gun shop that was maybe the second largest store in the whole state. And since Connecticut is a fairly small state and Dave’s store was situated right off an exit of Interstate 91 ― “easy on, easy off” ― he got customers from as far away as the Danbury area, one of whom was Nancy Lanza, who showed up some time in 2011 or 2012 with her young son, Adam, and purchased an AR-15.

Two days after the Sandy Hook massacre, as Dave was about to close for the night, a squad of helmeted ATF agents carrying rifles and wearing body armor drove up in two Humvees and charged into the shop. Oh yes, they were immediately followed into Dave’s store by some media folks who had been alerted by the ATF that something connected to the Sandy Hook mess was about to go down.

Let me interject one point here that needs to be understood. I heard about Sandy Hook while I was standing behind the counter of my gun shop; I closed the shop immediately and went home.  But later that night after the shooter was identified, I went back to the shop and pored through my records to find out whether or not I was the dealer who had sold the gun. Since it was a rifle, Nancy Lanza could have come into Massachusetts and bought the gun from me. I would have been required to ship the gun to a Connecticut dealer, so I was able to quickly check and I knew that the gun hadn’t come from me. I can guarantee you that every gun dealer in Connecticut and Massachusetts was looking through their books that same night in the hopes that the AR wasn’t sold by them.

The ATF spent the next several weeks examining every gun sale that Dave ever made. They also suspended his license which he never got back. Eventually they found a sale of a hunting rifle which was improperly made, but it was still a violation of 4473 law so they could now build a case. A year later, having absorbed the loss of his entire business, Dave took a misdemeanor plea for the sale of the hunting rifle and also agreed never to go back into the business of selling guns. All the result of a legal sale of an AR-15.

Back in 1995 my good friend in Fairfax, Wayne-o LaPierre, took a lot of flak for calling the ATF a bunch of ‘jack-booted thugs.’ Wayne-o has never been known to be as a master of the understatement, but when I think about how Dave LaGuercia was treated by the ATF, I have to say that Wayne-o was right. And by the way, every, single gun-shop owner throughout the Northeast knows what happened to Dave because every shop is visited on a regular basis by the sales reps for S&W, Ruger and Glock, so news gets around.

I’m not trying in any way to justify Sandy Hook or the lethal dangers of an AR-15. What I am saying is that there are reasons why people in the gun business don’t trust the government to regulate their industry in a proper and positive way. Something to think about the next time an advocate for gun violence prevention gets into a discussion with a gun nut about his guns.

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