Rantz: Democrats try to bankrupt gun shops with ‘insurmountable’ fees

Jan 23, 2024, 2:22 AM | Updated: 12:10 pm

Image: West Coast Armory North in Everett...

Interior of the West Coast Armory North in Everett (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

Washington State Democrats are defining the 2024 legislative session as an all-out war on gun rights. They are not only trying to impose licenses on gun ownership and a per-bullet tax. Now, far-left lawmakers are trying to put gun shops out of business with insurmountable, frivolous costs under the lie that it’s about public safety. What they’re asking for is not possible, and that’s the point.

Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) shops are subject to intense regulation, requiring significant investments in security under penalty of loss of license, business-ending financial punishments, and jail time.

HB 2118 would completely upend the high regulations with a new set of rules that gun shops would not be able to meet. Each exterior door or window must include bars or grates, a security screen, or commercial-grade metal doors. And all firearms must be stored in locked fireproof safes or a vault outside of business hours. The dealer must also hold a general liability insurance policy providing at least $1,000,000 of coverage per incident. And it must retain any trace requests from law enforcement for six years.

The digital security system must include motion and sound detectors. Video and audio surveillance must clearly record every business transaction and almost every part of the business. They must operate 24 hours a day, all year long. The recordings must be stored for a minimum of six years. Only the licensed dealer may have access to the video and can only release it under specific circumstances to specified recipients like law enforcement.

All requirements must be in place on January 1, 2025. That gives FFLs less than nine months after the last day the bill may pass during the legislative session. It’s precisely how bill sponsor State Rep. Amy Wallen wanted it.

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Concern from gun shop owners

Democrats loaned out public commenters from the anti-gun lobby. Many testified from out of state because that’s where they live. Conversely, local gun shop owners testified against the legislation, noting they already adhere to strict safety protocols.

Heidi Lee is the co-owner of Vancouver-based Sporting Systems. She says her security system and training are why she’s never had a firearm stolen from her shop. It’s got bollards, barred windows and doors treated with glass panes. The store has 24/7 security alarms with motion detectors and glass break sensors. The store even sets an occupancy limit. There’s nothing more she can do to keep it safe. She argued the only thing HB 2118 accomplishes is to put her out of business.

“House Bill 2118 is not financially obtainable for small businesses like mine,” she warned during a January 16 hearing. “All your mom-and-pop shops are slowly closing. The sense of community and safety is being replaced by criminals and drug-induced zombies. But I’ll continue to show up for every hearing. I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s unaffordable

Lee said it would cost at least $700,000 to upgrade their security system to meet the standards in the bill, even though her security system is top-notch. Similarly, Jeremy Ball, owner of Sharpshooting Indoor Range in Spokane, said he was quoted an amount that he could never afford.

“The security system quote that I received for this was at an estimated cost of $282,000. And that does not include the annual backup fees. That’s an insurmountable expense for a family-owned and operated business,” he explained.

Assuming the surveillance video is 1080p at an average of 5Mbps, which is within the typical range for 1080p video to ensure high quality, the system would need 117.1 terabytes for six years of continuous 24/7 video and audio recording — per camera. From just a consumer perspective, without a video surveillance system (including camera installation), this would run at least $300,000 just in external terabyte hard drives.

A problem in search of a solution

Michael Finley with the National Shooting Sports Foundation crunched the numbers, too. Just starting from scratch would be cost-prohibitive for new businesses.

“By our calculations, for six years of video on record at any point of time, for an average 2,000-to-3,000 square foot store, that would require 12 cameras. It would require nearly 4,000 terabytes of space. To put that in perspective for you, the cost over five years, not six years because they don’t calculate that high, would be $3.3 million per store just to comply with this bill. It’s absolutely going to put out every dealer in the state. And that’s not a sensationalistic thing to say.”

This is an expensive solution in search of a problem. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosions (ATF), there were only 16 reports of stolen firearms from gun shops in 2021.

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Gun shop owners say they’ll go out of business. That’s the intent

Wade Gaughran owns Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop in Bellevue, one of the largest gun shops in the state. He took issue with the implication that gun shops don’t keep firearms safe and secure. And he noted what this bill is really about.

“The alarm system I have in my shop is the same alarm system that the local billionaires use,” Gaughran explained. “We are on top of our game. This law, there is absolutely no way that we can be in compliance with this and still be in business. The burden on us in time, in manpower and in money will crush us. And I’m a large dealer. I am one of the biggest dealers in the state. The smaller dealers, the guys that operate out of strip malls and smaller shops, they won’t be able to stay in business today if this is kicked in. And so this bill is the FFL killer. And that seems to be the intent. Not to regulate or to help to lower crime. It’s to put us out of business and end the sales of guns in Washington with one law that is very ill-intended.”

Of course, Gaughran is right.

Washington Democrats put little care into researching any of what they are suggesting beyond price. It likely explains why so much of the bill is duplicative of federal requirements. Lawmakers added the duplicative so-called “common sense” regulations (a phrase that was consistently repeated by the anti-gun activists who testified in favor of the bill) to make the entire bill seem reasonable.

While Democrats have systematically chipped away at gun rights in Washington, they’ve fought to keep criminals out of jail and push for the early release of felons. Perhaps it’s why Seattle saw its highest number of homicides ever recorded in 2023.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Democrats try to bankrupt gun shops with ‘insurmountable’ fees