Local Gun Store Says It Cooperated with Feds

The attorney for a local gun store chain says his client cooperated with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in an investigation and is now feeling the heat over guns that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. As Jack Williams reports, at issue are so-called "straw purchases" and whether the store was told to sell the guns as part of a larger sting.

The Washington Post is reporting that a federal grand jury is investigating a clerk at Carter's Country, a well-known Houston gun store chain that sells thousands of firearms every year. More than 100 guns sold at the store over the past five years ended up in Mexico in the hands of drug cartels. Dick DeGuerin represents Carter's Country and says the store has cooperated with the ATF on suspicious purchases in the past.

"There was full cooperation between the Carter's Country personnel and the ATF. So yeah, we're pretty upset that now the ATF is backing off of that and denying there was any kind of cooperation agreement. There definitely was a cooperation agreement and if and when that has to come out in court, it will." 

The Houston ATF wouldn't confirm any kind of agreement with Carter's Country and says it never gives so called "blanket" approval for gun stores to go through with suspicious gun sales. DeGuerin says Bill Carter, the owner of the Carter's Country chain, feels double-crossed.

"The ATF was given enough information to stop the guns before they ever got across the border. Now whether they tried to or just dropped the ball or what they did we don't know. What we know is we did what they asked us to do." 

Houston is known a hot spot for so-called "straw buyers", people who purchase guns for others who can't legally buy firearms themselves. Because there are so many gun stores in Houston and its proximity to the border, many of the firearms cartels buy are from here. Jim Pruett owns Jim Pruett's Guns and Ammo on the Northwest side. He says he's cooperated with the ATF on straw buys in the past.

"If a guy comes in and wants to buy, and we did have a case, he wanted to buy ten AR-15's. I called ATF about it and I said this is kind of suspicious and in this particular case, we sold them to them with their direction, and they took care of him, and he's in prison now."

Pruett says he doesn't know of any gun store in Houston that would knowingly sell firearms that could end up in the hands of drug cartels.

"I think every gun store owner, we realize we're at war with the cartel and we don't want the weapons to fall into the wrong hands. We want to assist ATF in imprisoning these people who are going to buy weapons that would end up in the wrong hands."     

The Houston ATF didn't want to comment on this story, but did say it has a good relationship with local gun stores and would like to keep it that way. Dick DeGuerin says he's confident Carter's Country did nothing wrong. 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...