JANESVILLE

When Chris Endres opened CTR Firearms in renovated space at the automotive garage where he works, he opted from the start to pull guns from the shop’s showroom walls every night and lock them in a safe.

Recently, Endres and his wife and business partner, Charity Endres, decided that wasn’t enough security for their shop along Woodlane Drive on Janesville’s northeast side.

The couple instead retrofitted part of the gun shop space and even overhauled the building’s structure to create a gun vault. During business hours, the vault operates as a showroom where customers can peruse handguns, rifles and tactical shotguns.

At night, the room locks up tight behind two vault doors.

Under a proposed state bill, Wisconsin gun retailers such as the Endreses would be required to lock up their guns when their businesses are unattended—either in a secured gun cabinet or safe or with a secured rod-and-cable lock.

The author of the bill and the Endreses pointed to a common denominator affecting their actions: the April burglary at a Janesville gun shop that resulted in the arrest and sentencing on federal charges of Janesville resident Joseph Jakubowksi. Jakubowski was convicted of stealing more than a dozen guns from a Janesville gun shop and mailing a manifesto to President Donald Trump, sparking a 10-day, national manhunt.

The Endreses already have gone several steps farther than the new bill would require. Their vault includes 12-gauge steel under 3/4-inch, tongue-and-groove roof sheeting, and the outer walls are reinforced concrete block. The outside windows of the shop have new bulletproof glass.

The Endreses said they spent about $20,000 on the vault and other security upgrades. The couple said the extra security is to stop any would-be thieves from breaking in—whether through a window, by smashing through the building with a vehicle, or even cutting in through the roof—and getting easy access to dozens of guns stocked in the shop.

“When I opened up here, I said I’d never leave the guns unlocked at night. I want to be able to go home at 8 at night and be able to rest knowing the guns I’ve got are safe. It’s cost money to be able to say that, but I can say that we do it,” Endres said.

Federal rules don’t require after-hours security measures for gun shops beyond a requirement that operators lock store entrance doors securely.

And the Endreses pointed out that Wisconsin is one of 41 states that do not require gun shops to lock their guns in safes or cabinets, have security cameras on site or employ other security features such as those the Endreses now have in their shop.

Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said she proposed a bill last week that would require gun shops to secure their weapons after hours in gun cabinets or safes or with a rod-and-cable locks. She is still circulating it for sponsorship.

Subeck told The Gazette she authored the bill with the help of Madison-area law enforcement after a burglar smashed a vehicle through a Cross Plains gun shop earlier this month. She said the Jakubowski incident contributed to her decision, too.

Subeck said she’s now in contact with gun sellers for feedback, and she might “tweak” the the bill before it’s formally introduced, but she said the goal is to create “consistency” for the security of guns kept in stores. She said some retailers she’s reached lock up their guns after hours, and others don’t.

“The ultimate goal of the law is to keep weapons out of the hands of folks that would do harm, to prevent a large-scale smash and grab (burglary of guns),” Subeck said.

Subeck said she was surprised to learn that in 2016 more than 18,000 guns were reported stolen or missing from federally licensed dealers, according to the estimates she said are from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. She said the ATF data show about 7,500 of those guns were stolen during break-in burglaries.

“To me, that is horrifying. When gun shops don’t secure their weapons, they really are sitting targets waiting for someone to break in,” she said.

Chris Endres said CTR Firearms finished work on its gun vault a couple weeks ago. He called it “ironic” and a coincidence that a state lawmaker just unveiled a bill that would require gun lockup for retailers.

But he and Charity Endres acknowledged the arrest of Jakubowski served as a catalyst for them to move ahead with the vault.

Police believe Jakubowski had hit a window at Armageddon Supplies with a hammer then climbed through the window and stole guns and ammunition, according to criminal charges filed.

“After Jakubowski, we put in bulletproof glass on the windows, and we started putting the plans, blueprints (for the vault) on paper,” Charity Endres said.

Chris Endres said his stock of guns in the showroom had grown to the point he was no longer comfortable moving guns back and forth from small safes kept in the automotive garage that CTR Firearms shares space with. He said it took extra time every day, and some guns were getting damaged by being loaded and unloaded so frequently.

Endres said he understands why some gun sellers wouldn’t want to spend money or effort on extra security measures. He said he attended a statewide seminar hosted by the ATF, FBI and state law enforcement earlier this year on security best practices for gun sellers. Out of all the gun shops in the state, he said, only about a dozen store operators showed up for the seminar.

Charity and Chris Endres said they don’t know how far Subeck might get with a retail gun lockup bill, but they said they’re hoping their gun vault sets a standard that other gun sellers might follow.

The Endreses said their shop’s insurer told them the extra security wouldn’t change their rates, but they’ve had customers—both at the gun shop and the automotive garage—thank them for the extra security.

So far, no one has told them their shop’s vault is safety overkill.

“I’d really hope nobody thinks that,” Charity Endres said.

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