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Our Views: Gun shop burglary should prompt new regulations

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Gazette Editorial Board
Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's obvious but needs to be said: The mega-sized manhunt for Joseph Jakubowski likely would have never happened if the owner of Armageddon Supplies had locked his firearms inside a safe before closing shop.

Sure, Jakubowski could have found another way to get a firearm, but the April 4 burglary was key in triggering and ratcheting up people's fears about Jakubowski's intentions. Schools closed, Gov. Scott Walker canceled public appearances and local taxpayers ended up paying more than $128,000 in overtime to prevent a worst-case scenario.

Authorities say the burglary involved 18 firearms, including an automatic weapon, an M-16 (which, by the way, is still missing). An alarm went off at the shop, but Jakubowski had such easy and quick access to the weapons, according to authorities, he was able to escape before law enforcement arrived.

Here's our second obvious point: Maybe we need a law requiring gun shop owners to lock up their guns in a vault or some other secure space during non-business hours. Or at the very least, we need new regulations for storing weapons, such as the stolen M-16, regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

If Armageddon Supplies had its guns locked up, Jakubowski never would have made a quick getaway with 18 firearms, and he likely would have been apprehended at the scene.

Many gun shop owners already lock up their firearms, and in a perfect world, all gun shop owners would police themselves. But this isn't a perfect world, as last month's manhunt demonstrated. Requiring gun sellers to properly store their weapons shouldn't be viewed as infringing on gun rights but as acquiescing to common sense.

We support the Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment is not permission for gun sellers to handle their guns as they please. As anyone who has sought to purchase an automatic weapon knows, they are already heavily regulated. You cannot simply walk into a gun shop and buy a machine gun today.

Prospective buyers must file paperwork with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. They need to provide fingerprints for the FBI, and local law enforcement conducts a criminal background check. The process can take months. Adding a requirement for sellers of NFA weapons to lock up their weapons during non-business hours merely keeps in the spirit of the already arduous set of rules affecting NFA weapons. In this context, the lack of a storage requirement perpetuates a missing link in the current law.

Consideration for gun owners' rights must always be weighed against the public's rights, and Janesville residents last month paid a steep price, both in tax dollars and peace of mind, for one gun shop owner's approach to security.

In an interview with The Gazette, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said residents are talking about the Armageddon Supplies burglary and asking whether gun shops should do more to secure their businesses.

Spoden said the incident should prompt a “thorough review” of current laws and regulations, and he agreed those 18 firearms likely would never have been stolen if they had been locked up.

“We don't want people to smash-and-grab a bunch of automatic weapons,” Spoden noted.

No, we certainly don't.

If the Jakubowski manhunt doesn't prompt lawmakers to scrutinize current rules on firearm storage, we hate to think what it would take to draw attention to this issue.

 



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