Thousands of firearms taken from shop

Jim Wilcox, center, of A Pawn Shop on 353 Pitkin Ave., takes care of customers Thursday. Wilcox’s federal license to sell firearms was revoked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The guns to the left are pellet and black powder, which he said he can still sell.

Jim Wilcox told a federal agent he bought 47,616 firearms at his downtown Grand Junction pawn shop since 2002, according to federal records.

He said he sold 42,158 of them.

Just a month ago, Wilcox said his inventory consisted of more than 5,700 firearms at A Pawn Shop, 353 Pitkin Ave.

There were so many of them, he said, they took to stacking boxed firearms in a cluttered employee break room, complete with a sink and microwave.

Most of the firearms were stored upstairs at the building where he’s done business since 1981.

“I was surprised our ceiling held up,” Wilcox said with a laugh while minding customers Wednesday and answering occasional phone calls.

Today, there are no firearms at the shop because they took roughly a week to remove them earlier this month to an undisclosed location, he said.

Wilcox’s federal license to sell firearms was revoked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, effective Aug. 8. It was the end result of years of inspections, letters, claims and counterclaims between the family-run business and regulators.

Wilcox said he has enlisted help from Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and he’s pondering an appeal to a federal judge, saying the pawn shop’s survival is at stake. Guns, he said in a federal filing, account for 75 percent of his sales.

“I just don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong,” Wilcox said. “It’s not like we’ve sold guns to minors or something serious.”

The ATF said problems are rooted in what the business hasn’t done. ATF records claim Wilcox has chronic problems accounting for his inventory.

While declining to discuss Wilcox’s case in detail, ATF special agent Brad Beyersdorf said a decision to revoke a federal license isn’t made lightly and only happens in cases of repeat violations of federal regulations. The ATF in 2010 conducted approximately 10,500 on-site inspections at gun-selling businesses nationwide, he said.

“We revoked only 67,” said Beyersdorf, ATF spokesman in Denver, whose office covers Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

Beyersdorf said the agency has a goal of inspecting every license holder once every three years. Approximately 123,500 are active nationally, he said.

Wilcox’s run-ins with federal authorities are nothing new.

“The violations for which you were cited could adversely impact law enforcement’s ability to reduce violent crime,” federal authorities wrote in a letter to Wilcox in August 2007.

The letter was sent after an inspection earlier that same year, when the ATF found six violations.

That was after another letter and notice of nine violations in August 2005.

In May 2008, another inspection turned up five more violations, but a warning came this time.

“Any future violations, either repeat or otherwise, could be viewed as willful and may result in the revocation of your license,” the ATF wrote in April 2009.

In November that year, an agent reported the following: In many of the violations, data was entered incorrectly on an ATF form, a 4473 form, which must be completed by sellers on each gun sale.

“Mr. Wilcox stated he and his mother checked the ATF Form 4473’s and have made a game out of it to see if they can catch each other if an error was overlooked,” according to the ATF’s final notice-of-revocation letter, which was sent to Wilcox in July.

While some of the data omissions seemed mundane, the ATF cited at least three transactions during the November 2009 inspection in which Wilcox had “reasonable cause to believe” that the buyer was prohibited by law from owning a gun.

In the disposition of 497 firearms, the business failed to make a proper record of it within seven days of a sale, as required under federal rules, the ATF letter said.

There were other issues, some bigger than others.

“Mr. Wilcox filed an inventory theft/loss report on 347 firearms that could not be accounted for ...,” the ATF record said.

Wilcox denies the statement in the letter and questions why he was given a 30-day window to appeal the revocation decision after receiving notice July 8.

“I guess you can’t be that bad if they let you sell guns another 30 days before shutting you down,” he said.

While Wilcox said he asked for assistance to reverse the ATF decision from Tipton’s office, Richard Schoenradt, with the congressman’s Grand Junction field office, said he could not comment on interaction between a constituent and a federal agency.


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