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Barre pawn shop will stop selling AR-style rifles after recent shootings

An AR-15 rifle is pictured.
Gold and Silver Thrift Pawn Shop will stop selling all combat-style rifles and non-pump semiautomatic shotguns.

At least one pawn shop owner in Vermont is reconsidering which firearms to stock after recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Starting in July, the Gold and Silver Thrift Pawn Shop in Barre will no longer sell AR-style rifles.

In addition to the massacres, owner Craig McDermott was moved by a recent threat to Montpelier High School, which led to police seizing two rifles and ammunition from a student.

VPR's Grace Benninghoff spoke with McDermott, a federally-licensed firearm dealer, to learn more about his decision to stop stocking combat-style rifles. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Grace Benninghoff: You mentioned on Facebook that you're an avid supporter of gun owners. What went into your decision to stop selling these types of guns?

Craig McDermott: The biggest factor in my decision has really nothing to do with politics at all. I just came to the realization that it would be very hard for me, in my own life, to deal with the consequences if I was to inadvertently sell someone a firearm, and they went and did something horrific with it — it would just make me feel horrible. I'm a little league coach. I'm a father of three.

And I think the final straw for me was I got an email from the Montpelier superintendent of schools in the Montpelier Roxbury district. And they let the parents know that there had been a close call at Montpelier High School — that was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. For me, there's obviously no dollar amount that is worth the life of any young person in our community. I love firearms. I respect everybody's right to own them. I just don't want to have anything to do with a horrific event if it does happen.

And also, they're kind of boring guns as it is. I mean, these are spec guns. They all look the same. They're all made the same way. So being an antique dealer, it kind of goes against everything that I'm into. Which is rarity, sustained value over time. It just doesn't doesn't really have an appeal to me anymore.

You talk about having kids in the school system. On Facebook, you mentioned you're friends with a lot of teachers in central Vermont. Did the Uvalde shooting or the buffalo shooting hit close to home for you, and impact this decision?

I was already on the fence about this stuff. And it just kind of pushed me towards making the decision that I finally made. It seems like the rate of these events is becoming more and more frequent. So for me, I was already there. And as a father of young kids, it was a no brainer for me really.

And yeah, it does hit close to home because any parent with a student in the school system — it's their worst nightmare, right? But something happening, I wouldn't be able to live with it if I had something to do with it inadvertently, or contributed to something like that happening.

Since you've made this decision, how have your customers reacted?

I did have some reservations about coming out with the policy just because I was obviously worried that some of my customers would be upset or take it as a politically-motivated decision. But I haven't gotten any negative response from my customers so far. They've all voiced mutual respect. They know me personally, and know that it really has nothing to do with advocating for restrictions on gun owner rights or anything like that.

Do you think other Vermont businesses might also stop selling AR-15 style rifles?

I know and speak to a lot of other gun dealers, and I'm probably an outlier. I mean, it's gonna depend on what their business model is. It was much easier for me to do it as a federal firearms dealer that doesn't solely rely on the sale of mil-spec weapons, like these typically used weapons in mass shootings. You know, I sell a lot of vintage estate jewelry and antiques and paintings and sculptures, and I'm all over the place.

But I would hope that if these things continue to happen, and if Congress doesn't figure something out, other business owners will answer the call and just decide it's not worth it. We've got hundreds of kids that are dying now on a yearly basis. And, man, it's a tough thing to watch. It's just heartbreaking. And I don't want to have that weight on my shoulders.

Craig, you've made it clear that this business decision of yours is not indicative of your stance on gun control. But are there any gun policy changes that you would like to see, either in Vermont or nationally?

I think the governor made a wise decision in signing the recent bill for background check time. If there's a delay, there's a delay for a reason. And it's our policy at the store — and always has been — not to transfer a gun if there's a delay. Even if we're allowed to, we just don't do it. Typically, after a delay, we do get a proceed from the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], which is kind of a green flag to sell the firearm to the individual. But there are those cases where they find something a couple of weeks later, and they realize they made mistakes.

But some shops, they do that because they're within their rights, and I think that that's still a loophole that can protect folks. Gun ownership is a wonderful thing. Hunting is awesome. But we're at a point now where there's a lot of guns out there. So I don't know the answer. I'm not a magician. But we have a situation now where there's a school shooting so frequently now that it seems like they're just becoming part of our regular culture — which is very, very, very, very bad. And I don't know that regulation is going to do anything about it. But there could be some longer periods for people to to obtain firearms might help a little bit. I'm not sure.

When we're talking about finding a fix, what do you hope for moving forward? What responsibility do you think each of us has to protect one another, either with or without more gun control policies?

Definitely we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to keep each other safe. And as a community, that's always been the American way, right? You look out for one another. You look out for your neighbor. You do what you think is best and you act accordingly. I think it starts on a local level, community by community. And hopefully other gun dealers really check their guts and see if it's worth it.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with Grace Benninghoff @gbenninghoff1.

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