Larry Denny,, armed with a broom and a loaded Colt 45 handgun, spent yesterday morning sweeping up broken glass from the floor of his Arlington "Cop Shop," an outlet for police equipment that he describes as a "toys-R-Us for cops."
"I'll tell ya," said Denny, "a spring [booby] trap with a 12-gauge shotgun pointed right at the door would have been a godsend last night.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. yesterday, Arlington police said, a rock was thrown through the glass front door of the store at 3207 Columbia Pike. Intruders shattered a locked display case and made off with 19 handguns, which Denny says range from 25-caliber pistols to 41 magnums.
"The Cop Shop" has a burglar alarm, Denny said, but it wasn't hooked up.
A neighbor called police, who arrived after two teen-agers were seen fleeing on foot.
The neighbor, who asked to remain unidentified, said he "heard the glass crash and saw two guys crawling out the front door. Both of them had their arms filled with guns."
News of the theft from the "Cop Shop," one of several police equipment outlets in the Washington area and one of 4,427 licensed gun dealers in Virginia, prompted Arlington's chief prosecutor to call for tougher state gun laws.
Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Burroughs, who is seeking reelection this fall, noted that a Virginia resident needs a permit to buy a gun but not to carry one.
There is also no control over the sale of handguns among individuals, which means that the handguns stolen yesterday morning could be sold without any paper work required.
"This is Carson City," Burroughs declared. "Gun laws in this state are atrocious. Virginia has been dubbed by the ATF [federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau] as the handgun capital of the East. We can't get the laws changed."
Denny, too, was worried about the future of the guns stolen from the store. "They didn't go into the hands of community leaders that's for sure," he remarked "and they weren't target shooters."
But he was in flat disagreement with prosecutor Burroughs' stand on gun laws. Virginia's gun laws, he said are "the best damn thing that's happened to this state."
"Guns are inanimate objects," Denny said, and actually contribute to crime prevention. "There cannot be a policeman on every street corner be a like to see more people with guns. Anybody who is knowledgeable in the field of guns knows that Mr. Burroughs is 180 degrees out of lines. He's uneducated when it comes to weapons."
Denny, a 42-year-old former fireman and security officer, is the son and grandson of policemen. "My grandfather, my father, my brother and two uncles -- all cops," he said.
He also said he is careful to screen his customers, most of them policemen and security guards.
The shop's inventory includes troopper hats, badges, badge cases, uniforms, holsters, night sticks, gun belts handcuffs, tear gas, gas masks and bullet-proof vests.
"For some items we request a police ID," Denny said.
To complete the law-enforcement look, there are aviator-style sunglasses, flashing red lights for automobile dashboards, patches, decals and cigarette lighters bearing drawings of policemen and state troopers. Bound copies of "Soldier of Fortune," the magazine that chronicles the exploits of mercenaries around the world, rest on the display case. There is also tear gas, which Denny sells to women and joggers.
"It's a pretty good business," Denny said.
By late afternoon, Denny had compiled a list of the stolen gun's serial numbers. Some of the guns, he said, were gold- and silver-plated. One had a carved rosewood handle and one was an antique Remington made in 1875. He estimated the loss as in the thousands of dollars.
Asked what he would do if the burglars returned, Denny smiled and pulled out the Colt .45 from behind the cash register. "They didn't take everything," he said.