It’s been a number of years since I was behind the gun counter of a major sporting goods chain, but I still vividly remember several instances where I refused to sell a firearm to customers. One smelled of alcohol and had bleary eyes suggesting he was intoxicated. Another was highly agitated and made comments that suggested that he had a score to settle with someone. Then there was the father and son duo that simply seemed too stupid and dangerous to be in possession of the rifle that they wanted for “moose hunting”… in North Carolina.
In each and every one of those instances, my store management relied upon my discretion and judgement that the individuals in question should not be sold a firearm, even though several of them had already passed through the FBI’s NICS background check system before I determined they were not someone I felt comfortable arming.
Big 5 Sporting Goods manager in Downey (CA) Delilah Rios had a total of four disturbing interactions with one male customer who acted aggressively and erratically before another manager overruled her and allegedly forced her to release the shotgun to the customer.
Would you want someone who acted in the following manner to obtain a firearm? I sure wouldn’t.
In her suit, Rios said the problem began Jan. 21, 2015, when she assisted a middle-aged man who wanted to purchase a firearm. The customer passed a newly instituted safety test, but stormed into the “restricted area” of the store when she was processing his payment, retrieved his identification and credit card and left.
Two days later, he returned and said he wanted “any crappy old gun,” selecting a 12-gauge shotgun. While filling out a federally required form documenting the sale, he relied on a friend’s assistance. When Rios told him he was legally required to complete the form alone, the customer became agitated, the lawsuit said. He later accused her of selling him the wrong weapon and returned the next day to select another model.
After the mandatory 10-day waiting period elapsed, he came to the store on the night of Feb. 4, 2015, but Rios said the store was busy — she was working at the cash register for an employee on break — and that she did not have enough time to release the firearm.
“I paid for it, and you need to give me my [expletive] gun,” he said, according to the lawsuit. He left after she threatened to call police.
Later that evening, she found unused ammunition on the floor in the aisle where the man had lingered, but it was not a type sold by Big 5. She became concerned the customer was bringing in live ammunition for the exact firearm he wanted to pick up, according to the suit.
She reported the incident to corporate management and, against her opposition, a supervisor’s response was to call the customer and ask him if he brought in the ammunition.
The next day, the man returned and became irate and yelled loudly as she approached. “You again. I … hate people like you. People like you should not exist,” he said, according to the suit. “I hope you get fired.”
She was afraid and told him that she would not hand over the firearm. She offered a refund, but he refused to leave.
Two off-site supervisors questioned why she could not just release the gun. Another manager who was on his day off eventually came and, with police present, handed over the gun along with a $25 gift card, according to the lawsuit.
A customer acting in such a manner would send up red flags to any conscientious gun store employee I’ve ever met, and they would likewise refuse to sell a firearm to a person who not only seems angry and dangerous, but who also may have brought ammunition for the weapon into the store. If her account of these interactions are accurate, then she was well within her rights and within ATF guidance.
After the other manager released the firearm to the agitated customer, she asked for a transfer to another store in the chain and was refused. She then resigned after eight years of employment, and has now filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and violation of labor laws.
The Los Angeles Times contacted Big 5 Sporting Goods for comment, and is standard practice, the company refused comment on pending litigation.
If the events described by Rios are reasonably accurate and Big 5 Sporting Goods released a firearm to a man who acted in such a bizarre man in not one, but four very confrontational interactions, then I’d suggest that they failed to do their due diligence as a responsible company.
I sincerely hope that the circumstances she described are grossly inaccurate. The idea that a company would sell a weapon to a customer acting so erratically on so many occasions is frankly terrifying.