Gun Shop a U.S. Leader in Police Traces; 'COOPERATIVE' Law Enforcement Says Shooters Has Never Posed a Problem. LARGE DEALER Store Employees, Police Cite Sales Volume for Its No. 10 Ranking

Article excerpt

Byline: DANA TREEN

A Jacksonville gun dealer that bustled with customers Monday has been ranked 10th in the nation for traces of firearms recovered by police, according to a study released by the Washington Post.

Shooters Firearms and Accessories on University Boulevard West sold 1,320 guns that were traced back to it as the point of origin, according to the nationwide study by the Post.

The newspaper obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years. That information has been shielded since 2003, when gun lobbyists convinced Congress to pass a law to keep that database from being accessed by the public.

A high number of guns traced to a store does not necessarily signal wrongdoing, the newspaper said. The number of traces a store generates is shaped by many factors, including volume, the type of guns sold, geography and clientele, it reported.

Law enforcement officials in Jacksonville said Shooters has never posed a problem and is cooperative with police.

Monday, an employee at the store who declined to give his name said the store is one of the largest dealers in the nation and that volume alone is the reason the number of recovered guns can be traced back to the store.

He likened the situation to automobile dealer "Jerry Hamm selling Chevrolets." Of Chevrolets in accidents, a higher percentage is bound to come from a high-volume dealer, he said.

The family-owned Shooters has been in operation 22 years and stocks more than 5,000 models of guns and accessories, according to its website.

Earlier, a store manager who identified himself to the Post as Mike said there's little the store can do to prevent guns being used in crimes. The buyers "fill out the federal document, pass the background check, and from there it is not our control," he said.

Chief Michael Williams, who heads the Homeland Security, Narcotics and Vice division of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said Shooters has always been "most cooperative" with police.

He said Shooters is a high-volume dealer, which could account for its standing on the list.

A gun-crimes unit within Williams' division targets felons possessing firearms and straw purchases - the use of a qualified buyer to make purchases of weapons for criminals and others who do not qualify to own guns.

Williams said the unit recovers between 2,000 and 2,200 guns a year. He said the unit traces every gun it recovers, including those used in crimes, as well as those found with stolen goods or on the side of the road.

For a gun used in a crime, they also look at the amount of time between the purchase and the crime. The shorter the time frame, the greater the possibility for concern, he said. …