How stolen guns can be sold at big box chain stores and buyers never know
UNION CITY, Tenn. (WSMV) - It was Thanksgiving weekend 2021 and Umon Moore had traveled from Minnesota to Obion County, Tennessee, to see some friends and do a little target practice.
He would ultimately end up in handcuffs.
The reason why exposes how easily stolen guns can sold from even big box chains stores, who then sell to customers who have no idea they’re purchasing a stolen weapon.
The Discovery of a Stolen Gun
Body camera footage shows Moore and his friends were shooting target practice off a bridge into a creek and an Obion County deputy stopped to tell them that wasn’t allowed.
The deputy then asked if he could run checks on their weapons, and Moore and the others agreed.
The video shows that all the gun passed the background inspection, except for Moore’s.
The dispatcher can be heard on the radio saying that Moore’s weapon was stolen.
At that point, the deputy puts Moore in handcuffs.
“I hate to do it, but what I’m going to do right now is I’m just going to detain you,” the deputy said.
Moore remains calm, appearing even amused, saying that he bought the gun legally through a big box chain store, Scheels, in Minnesota.
Moore is handcuffed for more than a half hour as he and the officer attempt to figure out he was sold a stolen gun through completely legal channels.
Following the Trail of a Stolen Gun
A joint investigation with the investigative unit at KARE 11, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis reveals loopholes in the nation’s ability to track and recover stolen guns.
The findings from our investigation reveal Moore was not the only person to purchase the stolen gun through Scheels. As WSMV4 Investigates obtained body camera footage of Moore’s arrest, KARE 11 investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe tracked down that the gun was originally stolen from Arizona in 2013.
Lagoe then found that the gun was then purchased from Scheels by Gilbert Martinez Rivera in Minnesota.
“Did you assume that when you bought a gun from a legitimate store that it was background checked somehow?” Lagoe asked.
“You assume so, you think so. I don’t want to buy a stolen gun – nobody does,” Rivera said.
Rivera had the paperwork that shows he then sold the gun back to Scheels.
“So you bought it from Scheels and then sold it back to them?” Lagoe asked.
“That’s correct – bought it from Scheels and sold it back to Scheels,” Rivera said.
Moore then purchased that same gun and ultimately brought it to Tennessee for the Thanksgiving weekend.
Moore was not charged as Scheels confirmed he bought it from the store, but the gun was confiscated.
As a result of being detained and the confiscation of his gun, Moore sued Scheels, claiming that the store should have known it was stolen.
But a judge ultimately dismissed the case as Scheels’ attorney successfully argued that firearm dealers in Minnesota do not have access to any database to trace firearms.
Moore’s detainment reveals that a conflicting system in various states across the nation where only law enforcement, not gun stores, have the ability to run guns through the FBI’s database of stolen weapons.
Scheels refused to comment when contacted by KARE 11.
Kory Krause, the owner of a gun store, Frontiersman Sports, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, told KARE 11 that his shop had unknowingly sold a customer a used firearm that turned out to be stolen. “You can’t just type in the serial number and get an answer on that?” Lagoe asked.
“No, no, I wish we could but no, not as of now anyway,” Krause said.
Uneven System in Tennessee
In Tennessee, gun stores do have access to the FBI’s database of stolen guns.
But, stores are not required to do so, according to the TBI.
At Royal Range gun range in Bellevue, John Smith said the story’s policy is to run background checks on all guns sold to the store.
“Every single gun that we get in,” Smith said.
“But the reality is - you don’t have to,” said WSMV4 Investigates.
“I don’t believe we have to, as far as the law goes. It is our store police that every gun will be ran,” Smith said.
Tennessee’s law means if you buy a gun from a store in Tennessee that ops not to run background check on guns sold to them, then there is no way to know if you are buying a stolen weapon. WSMV4 Investigates reached out to two of Middle Tennessee’s biggest box chains, Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports, to see if their stores opt to run background checks on guns sold to them, but neither store responded to our question.
The new Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, introduced in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, will grant gun stores across the nation access to the FBI’s database of stolen weapons.
But like the Tennessee statute, it will be voluntary, and it is unclear when the gun stores will have the ability to access the database under the new Act.
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