An abundance of machine guns and tough-guy rhetoric was not enough to keep a gun store owned by a man claiming to be the “Most Armed Man in America” safe from some enterprising teens.
On August 29, federal agents arrested an 18-year-old who is suspected along with three others of stealing a truck from Mel Bernstein, owner of the Dragonman gun shop east of Colorado Springs, crashing the vehicle through his shop’s fence and garage door, and making off with 66 firearms.
“If I had been there they would have gotten shot in the head,” said Bernstein, who says he owns 200 machine guns and keeps as many as 2,500 weapons in stock. Bernstein, who told a reporter he can only do so much to secure his shop, stores weapons like AR-15s unsecured on pegboards like those found in a typical garage or basement workshop.
Other gun dealers do invest in anti-theft measures. Some install bollards or other physical barriers around stores so that cars can’t crash through doors or walls. For years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has advised federally licensed gun dealers to go even further to reduce gun theft, recommending that stores place all inventory in a secure vault after hours so weapons can’t be stolen even if someone manages to break in.
There is no official count of how many dealers actually lock up their guns or harden exteriors against break-ins, however. The federal government doesn’t mandate that gun dealers implement any kind of basic security standards for their stores. Neither do the vast majority of states.
Burglars around the country have taken notice, realizing that gun stores are easy marks for valuable goods for which the black market has high demand. Last year, gun store break-ins soared to an all-time record. The ATF recorded 558 burglaries in 2016, up 30 percent from 2016, with 7,488 firearms stolen.