Saturday members of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based anti-gun violence coalition, once again staged a demonstration outside Miller’s Sporting Goods Discount Hunting & Shooting Supplies in Lower Chichester, where they have been regulars since fall 2013.
They were not there to protest the sale of firearms but to protest the method in which they are sold. Miller has not done anything wrong, but his shop was the source of illegally purchased guns by the first two people in Pennsylvania convicted under the state’s “Brad Fox Law” enacted in 2013. Named for a Montgomery County police officer killed with a gun acquired through a straw purchase in 2012, it requires a minimum of five years in prison.
Members of Heeding God’s Call are campaigning against what they describe on their website as the highly developed illegal trade of gun trafficking made possible through “criminal entrepreneurs, traffickers, the straw buyers who stand in for them to make their bulk purchases and gun dealers who look the other way and enjoy the profits.”
They apply pressure to gun dealers to sign their Code of Conduct for a “Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership” that includes videotaping the point of sale, computerizing gun trace logs, accepting only valid federal or state picture IDs and conducting criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.
Miller insists he has been compliant with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives and made background checks first, over the phone through the Instant Check Unit that was established July 1, 1998, and, since Feb. 8, 2014, via computer. Miller said he also videotapes every gun purchase.
In Heeding God’s Call’s open letter to Miller Saturday, members said they respected his compliance.
“But the recent convictions of two individuals for straw-purchasing handguns at your store demonstrates that these requirements alone do not prevent guns from leaking onto the streets. Straw buyers may still put guns into the hands of felons, domestic abusers and other who would use them to threaten, wound, maim and kill,” they wrote.
In February 2013, Staci Dawson, 22, of Chester bought two guns from Miller’s store for her 22-year-old boyfriend, a convicted felon who had been a suspect in at least two homicides in Chester.
Last August she was convicted in Delaware County Court on two counts of illegally transferring firearms to another person and related charges. Last November she was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail and seven years probation.
The same day Dawson was sentenced, Ashly Judge, 27, of Montgomery County, was convicted in Delaware County Court on two counts of illegally transferring handguns, one of which she purchased at Miller’s store last July 20. She also illegally bought guns at the Double Action Indoor Range at Yeadon Industrial Park which is located in Upper Darby last June 3 and 27. On Jan. 8 Judge was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.
Miller insists that two straw purchases out of an estimated 100,000 gun sales in the 45 years since his father, Max, founded the business, is not a bad track record.
Ninety percent of guns connected with crimes were traced to five percent of the nation’s gun stores in 2000, said Heeding God’s Call member Fran Stier. Updated statistics are not available because of 2003 amendments named for U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas, that removed from the public record a government database that traces guns recovered in crimes back to dealers. They also force the FBI to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within 24 hours and prohibit ATF agents from requiring gun dealers to submit their inventories to law enforcement.
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