Protest targets firearms dealer

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jacqueline Scales nervously gripped the microphone in the center of a crowd of about 60 protesters gathered near gun dealer Realco in District Heights. It had been one month since the man who shot her son was convicted of his murder, and three weeks since the man was ruled criminally insane and not responsible for her son's death.

She had come to this protest to let people know that the Kel-Tec 9mm gun Terris T. Luckett used to shoot her son seven times, after Luckett shot his wife 20 times, was bought right there at Realco. A recent Washington Post investigation found that police have traced more than 2,500 guns used in crimes in the past 18 years back to Realco. Nearly one in every three guns confiscated by authorities in the District and Prince George's County was purchased at the dealer, The Post investigation found.

Saturday's protest, organized by a coalition of local faith and community groups called the _blankPartnership for Renewal in Southern and Central Maryland, was billed as a prayer vigil. Demonstrators prayed for Realco owner Carlos del Real and called for him to abide by a _blank10-point code of conduct for responsible firearms sales.

At first, Scales spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "We found out a lot during the trial that a lot of things happened. This man should not have been able to buy this gun," she said in a wavering voice. "We're not saying not to let [people] buy guns. But do a background check."

She then released a silver balloon decorated with a cross as a remembrance of her son, John Scales III, 37.

She said that del Real approached her at Luckett's trial and "said he was sorry he was the one who sold the gun that killed my son."

Raimon Jackson, the youth director at Gethsemane United Methodist Church, where Scales has been a member, told the gathering that one of the key points of the code of conduct the group presented to del Real that morning was to put an end to "straw sales," in which someone buys a gun for another person, typically one who has been barred from purchasing firearms because of a criminal record or mental health issues. Several of the guns used to commit crimes that The Post traced to Realco were purchased by straw buyers.

Jackson said del Real accepted a copy of the code of conduct offered to him by the activists and noted that although the gun dealer didn't look at it, he at least didn't give it back. Del Real assured them that he was following the law, Jackson said. The code of conduct is modeled on similar faith-based groups' calls for tighter adherence to gun laws in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond.

District Heights Mayor James L. Walls Jr. told the crowd that a friend of his had been gunned down in Oxon Hill with a gun purchased at Realco. City officials tried to take the dealer's business license away several years ago.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, too, has held protests in front of the brick Craftsman house on Marlboro Pike.

"We've brought this up to local authorities before. They always tell us, 'We're working on it,' " Walls said. "Well, I'm tired of 'We're working on it.' This group wants Realco to abide by certain terms. But we've had so many problems with them, my thing is, I would prefer them not to be here at all. It's time for all this to stop."

John Scales's widow, Jetaune Dalton-Scales, held on to her 4-year-old daughter, Kennedy, throughout the protest. As her grandmother released the silver balloon, Kennedy asked her mother, "Is that balloon going up to heaven to be with Daddy?"

"She's always talking about him, about how when we all get to heaven we'll be a family again and all the things we'll do together," Dalton-Scales said.

As local church leaders released red balloons symbolizing the victims of gun crimes and led prayers for the families touched by such violence, a steady stream of customers climbed the back stairs into the gun shop.

Inside, people leaned over the glass counters, which were chock full of handguns. When asked whether he had any response to the prayer vigil, del Real responded, "Nothing."

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