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The L.A. riots - echoes in the gunshops.

Protecting Yourself From The Riots And The Fallout

On April 29, 1992 the city of Los Angeles erupted into a four-day spree of looting and burning that would soon become known simply as "The L.A. Riots." The violence was triggered by the "not guilty" verdict handed down by a California jury over the charges of excessive force used against Rodney King by four officers of the L.A.P.D. after a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood, but it soon became clear that the ensuing riot had nothing to do with that trial.

During the riots, thousands of citizens rushed out to arm themselves, but were surprised by a 15-day waiting period on all guns. Those who waited just a couple of hours longer found the gun stores closed in reluctant compliance with a city-wide ban on ammunition and firearms sales -- although many of those gun stores were being guarded by their armed proprietors.

Since the L.A. Riot, gun sales have jumped all across the country, but many of the gun buyers know little more about firearms than, "Point the gun and pull the trigger." As a responsible dealer, you must teach these customers to be safe when handling firearms; if not, the sale you make today may come back to haunt you tomorrow.

When a new customer walks into your store, you have two obligations to them. First, you are obligated to inform the customer when he or she can use the gun in self defense -- whether against a full-scale riot or just an armed assailant. Second, you must protect them against the inherent dangers of shooting.

Remember, in a criminal negligence case, one of the things plaintiff's counsel has to prove is that some misfortune to their client was foreseeable by you, and you negligently failed to inform the client about protective devices that would have saved him.

The cross examination will sound something like this.

Shark-finned Lawyer: You admit selling Mr. Smith the rifle, and the reloading components, don't you?

You: Yes, of course.

SFL: Now, you're aware that careless handloads can blow up guns and blind shooters, aren't you?

You: Yes.

SFL: But you didn't try to sell Mr. Smith protective shooting glasses, did you?

You: No, sir, of course not. I can't sell something I don't have in stock.

SFL: So you admit that you didn't even have in your stock the glasses you just admitted could foreseeably have saved his sight! How long have you practiced this pattern of continuing negligence? ...

You get the drift. At a minimum you should have some ear and eye protection available, and at best, a full selection.

Consider also some strap-on recoil pads. I recall a seven-figure lawsuit of one young lady whose new shotgun didn't have a pad, and whose already-injured shoulder was separated and permanently injured by the ill-advised and unprotected 12-gauge Magnum firing.

Ears

Have a canister of inexpensive Ear Puffs or a similar product right there for impulse sale by the cash register. Better yet, throw a pair in with every gun you sell, and mark the sales slip to reflect that you gave hearing protection to the customer, no charge. That will leave little room for charges of negligence.

Keep a full line of hearing protectors. You want medium price to top-quality passive muffs. I would suggest also at least sample units (you can always take orders) of active hearing protectors. The cheapies sell for under $50. An excellent buy for the sports shooter is the $150 Sound-Buster. The top end of the market is the 1030A Wolf Ear unit at $250 retail.

As the sole distributor of the latter product, I can tell you that this item can open new markets for you. Your old-time shooter who has reluctantly given up his sport because of gunfire-induced deafness can now come back. He can hear game he couldn't hear before, and doesn't have to turn anything on or off to shoot. He can go back to spending a good deal of his discretionary income at your shop buying guns, ammo, and shooting accessories, where before he had channeled that leisure money elsewhere because he felt his hearing disability had made hunting, competition, and recreational shooting out of the question for him.

Of course, you also get a $50 profit per unit.

Eyes

Again, cover the waterfront. Start with simple, "cheap but sturdy" wrap-arounds that will go on over existing prescription eyeglasses. No one can then say that you didn't make every effort to see that all of your customers had the opportunity to acquire affordable safety.

Then, progress up the ladder with any of several of the medium line brands. You'll find that hunters are a surprisingly good market after you've explained to them that (A) this product protects their eyes from branches snapping in their faces ("You're right -- that happened to me last season!"), and (B) they can, in some shades, improve a hunter's vision contrast sufficiently that they can better see naturally camouflaged game, even under adverse light conditions.

Again, don't neglect the carriage trade. I bought my current pair of prescription shooting glasses at a LensCrafters in the local mall. Why? Because no gun dealer in my area was set up to supply me. I would much rather have spent those dollars at the gun shop, and so would a lot of shooters in your community who are now buying elsewhere.

Work a deal with a local optician on a referral basis. If you prefer, the customer can pick out the top-flight shooting glasses at your shop, leave his prescription and his money with you, and you work out the final fitting with the optician, taking your profit off the top. The customer, you and the optician are better and more knowledgeably served.

Safety Extras

By the way, don't forget to have a few baseball-type caps available, preferably with your store's logo. The bill of the cap prevents hot brass ejected from a nearby gun getting caught between eyeball and shooting glasses. By definition, it in turn prevents the disastrous chain reaction of the shooter so afflicted convulsively and blindly turning, with one hand going to the glasses as the other reflexively jerks the trigger, sending off a wild shot. Put a little sign on the display rack-- "Keeps Hot Brass Out of Eyes"-- and if nothing else, you've demonstrated more evidence of your efforts to warn your customers and keep them safe.

Keep firearms safety literature and videotapes available for sale, rental, or even loan. In addition to being one more profitable line and a logical impulse purchase item, especially for a first-time buyer, this helps cement your concern and efforts for the customer's safety.

Can Plaintiff's Counsel convince a jury of non-gun owners that it is actionably negligent to sell someone "weapons and bullets" without giving them anything safety related? The answer is, it's frighteningly easy.

It will be much harder for the lawyer to convince even a non-gun jury that the shop that has become synonymous in the local community with promotion of firearms safety could possible have been negligent.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Lethal Force
Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:1186
Previous Article:Giving customers the custom touch.
Next Article:Colt's financing extended; secures rifle contract.
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