The Difficulty of Gun Control

So, with all this effort and action and debate and with so many people trying to reduce the availability of weapons for criminals, I thought perhaps you might be interested in this little case involving three stolen guns.

Guns are sure in the news a lot lately.

Congress passed the Brady Bill. Then from the private sector we have a growing program that offers toys or other merchandise to people who turn in their guns. And Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen is proposing to increase the annual cost of a gun dealer’s permit to $600 – many times its current level.

So, with all this effort and action and debate and with so many people trying to reduce the availability of weapons for criminals, I thought perhaps you might be interested in this little case involving three stolen guns.

When local private eye Rob Kimmons mentioned some firearms had been taken from his office at Kimmons Investigative Services, I started grilling him for details.

Frankly, if you made a list of all the people you thought you could get away with stealing from, wouldn’t a detective be way down near the bottom?

One of the missing guns is from the PI’s personal collection – an over-and-under, containing both a shotgun barrel and a rifle barrel. It is worth a lot more now than when Rob bought it years ago because this model is no longer made.

Having just this one stolen would have made him plenty mad. But he was furious about the other two.

Not The First Time

They already had been filched once. One of Rob’s Clients is a gun dealer and collector who lost about 30 firearms in a burglary several months ago.

Rob had managed to recover some, most recently a .357 pistol and a 30-30 rifle. It was when the client dropped by Rob’s office to pick up those two that the shamus realized he, himself, had become a crime victim.

Rob reported the theft to police, just like you or I would do, but then he investigated on his own in ways that we probably wouldn’t.

It took Rob very few steps to arrive at a prime suspect. First, his office always is locked up when he’s gone. Second, the only other person with a key wouldn’t have done it. Third, the office recently was painted and the fellow doing the work had been alone in there.

So Rob found out where this guy lived and dropped by for a little tête-à-tête. The guy denied it and agreed to take a polygraph test. They set a day, but when Rob returned to keep the appointment nobody was home.

Asking around the neighborhood, Rob learned his suspect had checked into the VA hospital for problems related to drugs and alcohol.

Rob said he told police what he’d learned and an HPD investigator paid a visit to the fellow, who admitted taking the guns from the office.

Couldn’t give them back, though. Didn’t have them any more. Sold them the same day he took them and wouldn’t say to whom because he was afraid the buyer, a drug dealer who paid with cocaine instead of cash, would kill him.

The fearful fellow soon moved from the hospital to jail. Rob said he went there and managed to convince him to divulge the gun buyer’s identity and whereabouts.

It sounded promising. But Rob said the drug dealer, who appeared to be just a little past 20 and who lived with his grandmother, told him he no longer had the guns. Said he already sold all three of them.

You and I have no way of knowing exactly what might have been said, or how it was said, as Rob and that gun-and-drug dealer stood chatting there in granny’s living room.

But as I understand it, Rob requested that the fellow return to the people he sold the guns to and get them back. The fellow indicated he’d just as soon not try that.

Phrasing it Effectively

But Rob said something like “pretty please.” Or perhaps he tailored a more convincing phrase to suit the occasion, and then the guy said, well OK then, he would. Said he thought he could have the pistol back by the next day but it would take him a bit longer to retrieve the two longer guns.

Instead of doing any of that, however, he took it on the lam. Moved out of grandma’s house. Hid somewhere, Rob has been looking for him and said the police would like to talk with him, too.

That fellow who stole the guns from Rob’s office is doing some hard time now. Rob said he got a five-year sentence after pleading guilty.

As for the guns, there is just no telling where they might be now, or whether the rightful owners ever will see them again.

Each one may already have changed hands again and the colder the trail gets the more times that is likely to happen.

Eventually, maybe somewhere down the line someone might hock one of them. And then, a little later someone else might hock another. Rob said he has recovered other stolen guns by keeping in touch with pawn shops. He’ll just have to wait and see.

All of which seems to demonstrate that trying to control guns can be pretty difficult.

Thom Marshall, Houston Chronicle, Jan. 9, 1994

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