Arrowhead Pawn & Jewelry, a Jonesboro, Georgia, pawn shop and gun dealer that came to national notoriety as New York City’s top out-of-state supplier of crime guns, announced that it will soon be shutting down. In a since-deleted classified ad, the company stated, “After 35 years, we are closing our doors.”
In 2009, the New York Police Department labeled Arrowhead Pawn as the top out-of-state supplier of the city’s crime guns. When the store’s owner learned the news, he stated, “I’m just unlucky, I guess.”
A Washington Post report also found that between 2006 and 2010, over 1,700 crime guns were traced back to Arrowhead Pawn, making it the fifth-largest source of crime guns at the time. And in 2014, a gun used to kill two NYPD officers was traced back to Arrowhead Pawn.
Arrowhead Pawn first received its Federal Firearms License (FFL) to purchase and sell guns in 1989. Since then, FOIA records indicate that the business has been inspected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) a total of eight times, and the inspections uncovered numerous violations, including failures to complete and maintain transaction records and report multiple sales of pistols, among others, as required by law. Each of these violations makes it harder for the ATF to trace crime guns and stop suspected traffickers.
More importantly, Arrowhead Pawn was repeatedly cited for many of these violations and warned through conferences and letters. When notified of the repeat violations in 2016, Arrowhead Pawn stated that its employees were too “busy” and “got distracted by other customers” to properly conduct sales. According to the 2016 inspection report, ATF agents were also fearful of inspecting the firearms inventory “at the business premises due to safety concerns.”
Earlier this year, Westforth Sports, an Indiana gun store that had been identified as the “No. 1 supplier of out-of-state crime guns recovered by Chicago police,” also announced that it was shutting down amid litigation initiated by Everytown Law on behalf of the City of Chicago, which alleged that Westforth Sports had “engaged in a pattern of illegal sales that has resulted in the flow of hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal firearms” into Chicago.
Increased ATF PRESSURE
Arrowhead Pawn and Westforth Sports announced their closures after the Biden administration announced a new “zero-tolerance policy” in June 2021 tasking the ATF with revoking the licenses of gun dealers the first time that they “violate federal law by willfully 1) transferring a firearm to a prohibited person, 2) failing to run a required background check, 3) falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form, 4) failing to respond to an ATF tracing request, or 5) refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection.” Previously, the ATF was known for conducting few FFL compliance inspections and too often letting repeat offenders off the hook.
Gun groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) have vehemently opposed the zero-tolerance policy — standing up for harmful gun dealers by mislabeling willful violations as “minor clerical errors,” for example — but the results are telling. Since October 2021, the ATF has inspected over 15,572 gun dealers and revoked 265 licenses. For comparison, the ATF inspected just 5,827 gun dealers in 2020 and revoked only 40 licenses.
This heightened regulatory scrutiny has also led to 127 gun dealers voluntarily surrendering their licenses after inspections.
Finally, despite the attention and negative press Arrowhead Pawn and Westforth Sports have received over the years, major gun manufacturers — including Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Springfield Armory — continued to supply both dealers with weapons via distributors.