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As Mexico drug violence runs rampant, U.S. guns tied to crime south of border
The Academy purchases by Hernandez were at an outlet in Houston. Another Academy store in McAllen, about 10 miles from the border, has had about 95 traces in two years. After the Hernandez case, Academy stopped selling all military-style tactical weapons, including AK-47s and AR-15s, at its eight stores near the border.
In the rest of the chain's 120 stores, such "assault weapons" are limited to one per customer per visit.
"We wanted to do what we can to make sure that our firearms aren't contributing to the border problem," Academy spokeswoman Elise Hasbrook said.
Collectors owner Mike Clark said the 60 traces to his Houston store were insignificant given the store's volume, which he would not reveal. "Pretty small, I'd have to say," Clark said.
In his "Ol' Bill Sez" commentary atop his weekly newspaper advertisement in April, Carter made light of the guns leaving Texas for Mexico: "Why all the talk about guns going south when so many drugs are coming north that our cows along the interstate are gettin' high off the fumes!"
Volume might factor into why many dealers are on the top-12 list, including Carter's Country, which sells thousands of firearms and is the largest independent gun retailer in the region.
Greeting a reporter last month in his store in Spring, standing near giant ivory tusks and stuffed grizzly bears and lions, Carter declined to be interviewed. "I'd like to talk to you, but I just can't," Carter said. "We're in litigation."
Dogged for years by lawsuits over his business practices, Carter pushed for the 2003 federal secrecy law governing gun traces because trial lawyers had been using the information in lawsuits against gun stores.
"If the gun-ban lawyers succeed, the floodgates will open," Carter said at the time in a newsletter he issued as president of the Texas Gun Dealers Association.
In one suit, a former employee who filed a wrongful-termination suit said Carter's Country permitted straw purchases. Carter's Country, which settled the suit for a small amount, denied the allegations.
In another case, a man who killed a Houston police officer said he bought the murder weapon, a 9mm Smith & Wesson, "in the name of my wife" at Carter's Country in Pasadena, outside Houston. An illegal immigrant who had been convicted of a felony sex offense, he was prohibited from buying a gun.
The officer's wife, Joslyn Johnson, a Houston police sergeant, alleges that Carter's Country knew the sale was illegal. "I think it is all about money and that it is a common practice for them," Johnson said. "They are putting guns in the hands of criminals."