WASHINGTON – Within hours of the shootings that killed five Montgomery County residents, federal agents were contacting local gun shops Thursday urging them to be on the lookout “in the event that anyone comes in to buy ammunition.”
The 12 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who were dispatched to the county also let gun shop owners know what had happened and asked if they had noticed anything suspicious in the last two days, said Special Agent in Charge Mike Bouchard.
He said gun shop owners were also asked to get proper identification from people purchasing ammunition. While shop owners are not required to give ATF officials the names of anyone buying ammunition, Bouchard said the agents were emphasizing the importance of checking identification.
Although shop owners are willing to cooperate, the request is not as easy at seems, said Sanford Abrams, vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association.
Most people only buy one or two boxes of ammunition, each of which contains 50 rounds. That is more ammunition than was used in the shooting spree, said Abrams, who owns the Valley Gun Shop in Baltimore County.
“Now if the guy came in and bought two cases, I’d take notice, but not one or two boxes,” Abrams said.
He also said gun shop owners are already required by law to check identification, “so they’re telling us to do what we’re already doing.”
At Potomac Trading Post and Antique Guns, a few blocks north of the Shell gas station where one of the victims was shot Thursday, an employee said ATF agents had already been by early Thursday afternoon. The employee, who would only identify himself as Bob, said he cooperated with the agents.
Most of the gun shops contacted Thursday were reluctant to talk, but they did say it was business as usual. None of them reported an increase in gun sales or requests for bulletproof vests in the wake of the shootings.
An employee at Gilbert Guns in Rockville said, it is because “most people don’t know about it (the shooting spree) but I guarantee once they do, they’ll come in and purchase” guns.
But Bob said he believes most “people are staying close to their home fires,” out of fear of the unidentified shooter.