Pawnshop Gun Inventories Plunge

DENVER--Pawnshops' gun inventories across the nation have fallen by as much as 70 percent in the year since the federal government imposed mandatory background checks on their customers, store owners say.

Gun owners who once obtained quick cash loans by pawning their weapons are resisting the requirement that even they undergo the checks when they go back to reclaim their weapons, and frustration is mounting over paperwork and malfunctioning computers, said Scott Pasternack, a third-generation Denver pawnshop owner.

"Even if they don't object to all the forms, they might have to wait three or four days and miss their hunting trip," he said.

As a result, gun owners seeking cash are bypassing the checks by turning to unregulated private transactions or street sales, said Tom Horn, executive director of the National Pawnshop Association.

The number of guns in pawnshop inventories plummeted after the requirement of checks for reclaiming pawned guns was instituted with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Horn said pawnshop gun inventories have fallen from a high of 10 million to an estimated 3 million as of Tuesday.

EZCorp Inc., which has 325 pawnshops in 14 states, started phasing out handgun sales about a year ago in some markets and is considering phasing out guns altogether.

Gary Bennett, manager of Downtown Pawn & Gun in Ocala, Fla., said he considered eliminating gun transactions, but "I decided our constitutional rights were more important."

Many pawnshops depend on the revenue from gun owners who pawn a weapon for a limited time and then return to redeem it for the original price plus an accrued charge.


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