Emphasis and comments are mine
Police stake out gun store on lookout for felons, straw buyers
By John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Sept. 26, 2009
By The Numbers
1,880 - Guns used in crimes in Milwaukee were tied to Badger Guns and its predecessor between January 2006 and Sept. 1, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis.
537 - guns linked to crimes around the nation were sold by Badger in 2005, the most in the nation.
447 - crime guns were sold by the next closest shop, in California, according to federal data.
The convicted felon and his girlfriend pulled up to Badger Guns in West Milwaukee one evening last week and went shopping for a gun.
After they left, the couple were stopped just inside the Milwaukee city limits, where police officers were secretly watching the store for indications of "straw buying" - someone illegally buying a gun for a felon.
The stop was part of a monthslong undercover mission by Milwaukee police to turn up the heat on Badger Guns, which sells a large percentage of firearms that are seized by police, according to new gun-trace data.
The 27-year-old man, on parole for robbery, initially denied he had even been in Badger. He told officers they were at Wendy's, getting burgers. Then he said the two were actually on their way to the hospital and just turned around in Badger's lot.
The felon finally fessed up but insisted he was only in Badger to help his 22-year-old girlfriend shop for a gun. Officer Joseph Honzelka quizzed the woman. He found her answers suspicious - she didn't know a handgun from a shotgun.
"I asked her what kind of gun she was looking for," Honzelka said. "She said she looked at all the guns and didn't like any."
Police suspected she was a potential straw buyer, but there was little officers could do. There was no gun in the car and no proof the felon touched a firearm while in Badger. The only option for police would be to tell the felon's parole agent he had been in the store.
Badger Guns, and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, have accounted for roughly one-third of all crime guns traced by Milwaukee police in the past four years, the data shows. No other store in the state comes close to that figure. The next closest, The Shooters Shop in West Allis, accounted for less than 3% of guns traced by Milwaukee police during the same period. The Shooter's Shop is 3 or 4 miles away
A total of 1,880 crime guns recovered in Milwaukee were linked to Badger between January 2006 and Sept. 1 - or more than one a day, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis.
Badger isn't just the biggest seller of crime guns in Milwaukee, but among the biggest in the nation.
Badger Outdoors was one of the top sellers a decade ago and was No. 1 as of 2005, according to federal data. Congress has since forbidden the release of such rankings.
Badger Outdoors went out of business in 2007 but was reopened as Badger Guns in August of that year by a longtime employee of Badger Outdoors. Besides the name change, the operation remains largely the same at the gun shop on S. 43rd St.
And police say some of the clientele remains largely the same, too.
The department's operation at Badger kicked off two days after Milwaukee police Officers Graham Kunisch and Bryan Norberg were shot in June. The gun used to shoot the officers was purchased at Badger Guns a month earlier by a straw buyer, according to prosecutors. That shooting came less than two years after a different pair of officers were shot in November 2007 with a gun from Badger Outdoors.
During the 11-week operation, Milwaukee police:
• Discovered felons use Badger's shooting range for target practice. In one case, store employees rented a gun to a felon to shoot. Another felon had a shooting "range pass card" in his pocket showing he had shot at Badger previously. Store employees check driver's licenses but not criminal histories of shooters.
• Seized 12 guns from felons and others leaving the store. They arrested nine felons for possessing guns, seven for carrying a concealed weapon and four on drug charges. Eight people have been charged so far as a result of the sweep.
• Spotted felons frequently going in the store or waiting outside. Felons are banned from possessing guns, but probation agents do not routinely require felons to stay out of gun stores such as Badger. WTF??
Police and prosecutors say that should change.
Police Chief Edward Flynn said he learned how many guns from Badger were ending up in violent crimes when he became chief nearly two years ago. After the officers were shot, Flynn ordered up a plan to target illegal gun buys at Badger.
"I had an enough-is-enough moment," Flynn said. "They know to whom they are selling, they know what is happening with their product, they know citizens in Milwaukee are dying, and they don't care."
Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said Badger can and must do more to prevent illegal gun sales. As former head of the office's gun unit, Chisholm has intimate knowledge of the store's operation.
"All we are asking is that they be professional," Chisholm said. "Their public service would be to do everything in their professional skill to prevent a sale to someone who will turn around and put that gun on the street to commit violence. They have the skill to do it. I suspect they choose not to do that more than they do."
Store owner responds
Badger Guns' owner, Adam Allan, said he is doing everything he can to eliminate illegal sales, from banning cell phone use in the store to tough questioning of customers. He said the high crime-gun figures from Badger are explained by his large sales and proximity to Milwaukee.ummmm, there are plenty of gun stores within 20 miles.......
"You should see the number of people we kick out of here," Allan said. "I am going over and above what is expected of me. The problem is (police) aren't working with me. If I can get some suggestions, I am willing to pull out all the stops. What more can I do?"
Flynn said his department has been making suggestions to Badger for years and is done with that approach. He said there are gun stores across the country that have figured out how to avoid straw-buyer gun sales.
"We are past the point of negotiating," he said. "They need to get their act together."
Allan said he has been aware of the police operation for weeks and warns his customers they might be pulled over. He said the police actions amount to racial harassment. Oh woe is me I'm just a victim in all this... Or perhaps just a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease?? What should the police do? Sit outside gunshops where "crime guns" don't come from?
He posted a sign in front Thursday calling the Milwaukee police racist.
"They are profiling my African-American customers," he said. "It isn't fair. You are going to attack all my customers because one of my customers did something illegal?"
On a ride along with police last week, a reporter from the Journal Sentinel observed four stops - two black customers, one Hispanic couple and one Caucasian. The white man was the only one arrested that evening.
All 11 people referred to the district attorney and eight subsequently charged in the operation were African-Americans, according to police and court records.
Flynn said he isn't surprised by that fact because a majority of victims and perpetrators of gun violence in Milwaukee are African-American males.
"(Allan) clearly doesn't care a damn about the demographics of dead Milwaukeeans," Flynn said. "To try to wrap himself as a victim of racism is not only absurd, it is obscene."
Prior police target
Efforts to crack down on illegal gun purchases at Badger are nothing new. The store opened in 1987 and drew national headlines in the late 1990s when federal data showed it was the largest seller of crime guns in the United States.
Milwaukee police officers ran an operation a decade ago, pulling over cars and finding felons who had managed to get guns out of Badger, said Lt. of Detectives Jason Smith, who was part of that operation.
"We pulled over a felon a block from Badger who had the gun out of the box, was loading it and passing a joint," Smith said.
The store's owner then, Mick Beatovic, vowed to cooperate. He promised to stop selling certain cheap guns. He always quickly turned over gun sale records and surveillance tape and testified in court, Smith said.
"Their surveillance is excellent, the cooperation is good but it never stops the problem," Smith said. "It is the game we play with them."
In 2005, Badger again topped the nation for crime guns, with 537. The next closest shop, in California, had 447 crime guns, according to federal data.
In 2007, Beatovic turned in his federal gun dealer's license, saying he was retiring to Arizona. He kept the building but sold the business and its inventory to Allan, a longtime employee and the son of Beatovic's partner. Allan changed the name to Badger Guns, but made few other changes.
Gun-trace data show that like its predecessor, Badger Guns continues to account for a large number of guns that end up - sometimes very quickly - at crime scenes.
After Allan took over Badger, Smith paid a visit and told him he was one high-profile shooting away from great scrutiny.
That shooting came shortly after 3 p.m. June 9 when, prosecutors say, Julius Burton opened fire from short range on Officers Kunisch and Norberg with a .40-caliber Taurus pistol. Both officers have serious long-term injuries.
Jacob D. Collins, 21, has admitted in federal court that he bought the gun at Badger in May for Burton, who at 18 was too young to purchase it.
A similar scenario occurred in November 2007 when Victor Veloz, then 15, shot police Officers Jose Lopez and Alejandro Arce after participating in a gang-related shooting that left two other teens wounded. A 24-year-old man bought the gun for Veloz at Badger, prosecutors say.
Stakeout began in June
Milwaukee police began staking out Badger on June 11. A surveillance car looks for suspicious activity, such as a man staying in the car while a female goes in to shop. They also run license plates to see if they come back as registered to felons.
When they find a target, officers stop the vehicle on a traffic violation. The tactic, called a "pre-text" stop, has been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
During one afternoon last week, officers pulled over four cars. One was Craig Thompson of Menomonee Falls, who said he was at Badger shooting his .50-caliber Desert Eagle handgun for the first time.
Officers said they stopped Thompson because it looked like he had put something on the passenger seat. Carrying a gun in the front seat is against the law, police said. Officers stopped Thompson for having windows that were too darkly tinted in his Ford Expedition. They found the gun in a case in the back, which is legal.
Thompson, who is black, said he didn't have a problem with being pulled over.
"If someone is riding around with an illegal gun, I am in danger," he said, nodding at officers. "I want you guys to nip it in the bud."
The only arrest they made this day was for a 23-year-old wanted on an unpaid traffic ticket. They found no illegal guns and made no gun-related arrests, yet Flynn said it was successful for the message it is sending.
Flynn said he has been most surprised that felons are brazenly going to Badger to practice shooting guns.
Daunte McClendon, 31, a convicted felon, was stopped by police in late July with two guns in a box on the back seat, according to a criminal complaint. McClendon freely admitted to officers he had been shooting at Badger. The case is pending.
Allan said he doesn't want to have felons in his store.
"I would prefer that they not be here, but unless they put an F on someone's driver license, I don't know they have a felony," he said.
Chisholm countered that Allan could require everyone who enters his store to show ID and be checked in a publicly available database for felony convictions. At a minimum, felons should be run so they cannot be allowed to take target practice at the store, the district attorney said.
James Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement, questioned whether a gun store owner could prohibit someone from entering the business.
"The law does not allow it . . . ," Fendry said. "What if you are wrong and that person starts screaming with their lawyer?"
Flynn said he will share information uncovered by his officers with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which issues gun dealer licenses and conducts inspections.
The chief said the operation will continue as long as crime guns continue to be traced back to Badger.
"We have the stories," Flynn said. "The stories are written in blood on the streets of Milwaukee."
An older story:
Again, emphasis and comments are mine...
Suburban gun shop tops list
It leads nation in selling weapons later tied to crimes
By JOHN DIEDRICH
Posted: May 30, 2006
West Milwaukee's Badger Outdoors last year again was tops among all gun shops in the nation for selling guns that later were recovered by police during criminal investigations, according to new data from the federal government.
"We are not the bad guys, damn it. I don't care what those (FACTS?))
- Mick Beatovic,
co-owner, Badger Outdoors gun shop
The U.S. gun shops in 2005 that sold the most guns that were later traced to crimes, according to federal documents:
Badger Outdoors, West Milwaukee: 537 guns
Trader Sports, San Leandro, Calif.: 447 guns
Elliot's Small Arms, Jefferson, La.: 442 guns
Don's Guns and Galleries Inc., Indianapolis: 431 guns
Hyatt Coin & Gun Shop, Charlotte, N.C.: 405 guns
Source: U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
"Clearly, what they are doing is not enough. You don't end up number one in the entire nation by crossing all the t's and dotting i's."
- Jeri Bonavia,
executive director, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort
In 2005, there were 537 crime guns - an average of more than 10 a week - recovered and traced to Badger, the Milwaukee area's largest gun dealer. None of the others in the top five had more than 500 crime guns traced to them, according to the document from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The ranking was released during a federal trial in which another store with a high number of crime gun traces - Trader Sports Inc. of San Leandro, Calif. - sued to try to keep its dealer's license.
In 1998, Badger had the most crime guns traced to it among all gun dealers in the United States and then fell from the top spot, only to regain the spot last year. Badger has been criticized for selling cheap handguns, which were bought by "straw buyers" with clean records and then passed on to gang members. In a 1999 sweep, the majority of straw buyers bought the guns legally at Badger.
Owner cites scarcity of shops
Co-owner Mick Beatovic said Tuesday he wasn't aware that many crime guns had been traced to Badger. ATF classifies crime guns as any firearm used or suspected of being used in a crime.
"You could knock me over with a feather because I didn't think we had that many traces," he said.
Beatovic attributed the high ranking to the low number of gun stores in Milwaukee, B.S. there are plenty of gunshops within a few miles
Badger's proximity to a high-crime area What about the high crime areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.....
and the practice of Milwaukee police of tracing every recovered gun, something that not all departments do. No, only PD's that recover guns trace every gun they recover ....
Beatovic said his store on S. 43rd St. isn't part of the problem. He said he often testifies in court cases, opens his records to detectives and frequently calls police to arrest people trying to buy guns illegally.
"We are not the bad guys, damn it. I don't care what those numbers (facts)
say," he said.
Jeri Bonavia, executive director, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said Badger needs close scrutiny.
"Clearly, what they are doing is not enough," she said. "You don't end up number one in the entire nation by crossing all the t's and dotting i's."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett today is scheduled to meet with Beatovic, along with top police commanders and prosecutors, to talk about curbing gun violence. The meeting comes on the heels of a bloody weekend in Milwaukee in which 28 people were shot, four of them fatally.
Barrett said he hopes for a productive meeting.
"I want to sit down and roll up our sleeves and see that the guns they sell don't end up being used in crimes," he said.
Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney John Chisholm, head of the gun unit, also will be at the meeting. He said that Badger helps him and other authorities, and agreed that Milwaukee's policy of tracing all guns used in crimes probably drives up Badger's numbers.
"That doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking very, very closely at gun sources," Chisholm said.
More safeguards needed?
Studies have shown that most crime guns change hands at least once after they are sold by a gun shop or other dealer. However, no background check or paperwork for sale is done after the initial purchase. That is wrong, Beatovic said.
He said he has done background checks for people who are selling guns privately and want to make sure they aren't selling to a felon. Beatovic said all gun sales should require background checks.Thanks for selling us out because you can't be responsible for your own business
"Anyone in their right mind should not be against it - and that comes from a gun owner and NRA member," he said.
The government clamped down on release of ATF gun trace information five years ago, and both Chisholm and Barrett are concerned about a bill pending in Congress that would tighten release of such data. The measure would let prosecutors use gun traces for a specific case, but Chisholm said it wouldn't let him compile a complete picture of where crime guns come from and share it with the public.
"Now we are going to have that information taken away from us, and that doesn't seem right," Chisholm said. "You are going to be blinded in the future to see if your strategies are effective."
Barrett said he recently learned he had no right to see trace information, and the bill would further restrict access.
"I am outraged that my federal government is keeping this information from us," he said.
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the trace data was used by anti-gun groups for lawsuits and argued its release could damage cases.
Chisholm said that is a bogus argument. "The information is never case-specific," he said. "That is just absurd."