Travis Bishop has been working the past 13 years as a firearms dealer in West Virginia at Tannerman’s Weapon Systems. The store is not only his passion, but also a beacon of hope in his community.
He has put on four food drives in the past 10 years, he’s active in his church through ministry work, he has helped countless heroin addicts though outreach programs, and recently helped 25-year old Britney Bretfield, a customer at Tannerman’s and an avid shotgun trap shooter suffering from cancer, by raising $5500 to help offset her medical bills.
This man goes above and beyond, so when people heard he alerted authorities to break up a straw purchase in his store, it was no surprise. The surprise came after the individuals were spotted in a local liquor store only 14 hours after being arrested.
On December 10th, Travis was working in his store as usual, when two individuals entered his store looking for a handgun. After approaching the two, asking if there was anything he could help them find, the woman indicated she was looking for a “gun with a beam”.
After talking with them only a few short minutes, he alerted his store employees to go into “straw purchase” mode. This slows things down behind the counter and allows them time to further assess the situation and call law enforcement if necessary.
Continuing to press for information, Travis asked if they had ever owned or handled handguns before and they both indicated, ‘oh yeah. yeah, we have guns.’ but neither one was able to say what kind or model they were. After perusing the store talking about several options and deciding on a handgun, they said, ‘yeah, we’ll take that one.’
Confused, Travis asked, “What do you mean ‘you’ll both take that one’? Which one of you is going to be purchasing the gun?” to which she replied, “Oh, he’s gonna get it, I’m gonna pay for it.” So he takes them to the counter to start the process and asked, “Which one of you specifically is buying the gun?” Again she answered, “Well the gun is for him, but I’m gonna pay for it.”
Still in ‘straw purchase mode’, Travis instructs his staff to call it in to get an approval or denial and start the paperwork to ensure they have a completed and signed 4473. As you know, the questions beneath the personal information boxes are specifically intended to identify potential straw purchasers and individuals not allowed to own guns:
Let’s meet the woman in Travis’ store trying to buy a gun for her friend:
This is Curtessa Franklin of Canton, 21 years of age. She has a colorful background including shoplifting, credit card fraud, larceny, and stabbing a man who asked her and her friend to ‘stop rapping so loudly’. When arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for that last incident, Franklin already had an outstanding warrant for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Travis’ instincts were right, and as the man with Franklin completed the 4473, he called a local trooper to alert him that he had a straw purchase going down in his store. The trooper indicated that he would call local police to put a tail on the individuals to see where they went after they left his store, and Travis returned to the counter.
He informed the two that the 4473 had come back with a ‘delay’ and clarified that it was neither a denial or an approval, but Franklin got nervous and said, “Well then we’re backing out.” Travis said, “What do you mean ‘you’re backing out’, we didn’t receive an answer on it, it’s just delayed. You could be approved in a half hour, hour, day or four days, but after the five days, you can pick up your gun.”
“Well I can’t wait four days, I need a gun today,” Franklin told him.
Travis asked what the urgency was and she indicated that she was heading to Miami for vacation. He asked her for the $35/background check (which she paid on a stolen gift card from Walmart). Travis said if she was approved in the next two days, he would refund her the $35.
They left the store unhappy, but Travis went above and beyond to alert his local competitors, calling store owners and creating a post on Facebook.
No more than 45 minutes later, a friend of his who owns a local pawn shop called Travis back to tell him those same individuals had just left his shop where they were denied the purchase of a handgun. Within 15 minutes of that phone call, Franklin returned to Travis’ gun shop only this time, she not only came in with her accomplice, but also another woman willing to fill out a 4473.
She returned to the same case and pointed out the same handgun to purchase. At the same time, Travis was working with Raymond Fox, a friend of his who happens to also be a retired county officer. Playing it cool, Travis said loud enough for Franklin and her accomplices to hear, “You know Raymond, I just don’t think I have the space for this pistol right now, I’m gonna have to pass.”
Franklin immediately approached Fox trying to buy the pistol from him on the spot, saying, “You want to sell that gun, I’ll give you $500 right now, what do you want? I’ll buy your gun right now!”
Continuing to run the new purchaser’s 4473, Travis made the call to the state police to report Franklin’s return to his store and inform them of their stop at the pawn shop. Troopers arrived and parked in his garage, waiting for the right time to enter and apprehend Franklin and her accomplices.
During her arrest, troopers found a large amount of marijuana on her and thousands of dollars of stolen credit cards, plus a scanner which can capture credit card information at the register. Trooper Campbell informed Travis they were booking Franklin on the marijuana possession to hold her in custody and that Agent Smith with the ATF had been notified to handle the firearms charges from that point.
But here’s where gun laws and the bureaucratic red tape fail: 14 hours later, Franklin and her accomplices were spotted in a local liquor store. Although she had outstanding warrants in other states and several additional charges in West Virginia from her arrest at Travis’ store, she was a free woman.
How can this be? Admittedly, law enforcement and state agencies can only work within the existing laws, but that’s not working. Not because of a lack of effective laws, but due to the inability of agencies to enforce existing laws. In West Virginia, the ATF is the only agency allowed to prosecute these cases right now. They do their part and send their cases to the State Attorney’s office which takes about 2-4 weeks minimum to review. What happens in that time?
People like Curtessa Franklin are set free to continue their life of crime.
If we are going to fight politicians aiming to write new/more gun laws, then we need to step up and speak out how grossly any effective agencies are able to prosecute under existing gun laws. We owe it to people like Travis Bishop to do our part to make his efforts matter.
Until we can make a difference within the existing gun laws to ensure they are effective, functional, and user friendly, we will never hear the end of the call for ‘more gun laws’.