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People Who Work In Gun Shops Share The Biggest Red Flags They've Ever Seen

People Who Work In Gun Shops Share The Biggest Red Flags They've Ever Seen

With the news being what it's been lately (and by "lately" we mean for the past several years) the conversation about gun sales and control comes up a lot. We tackle a lot of different angles from a hypothetical perspective - but it's rare that we talk to people who actually sell guns.

Now we are.

Reddit user Claim_to_lame asked:

People who work in gun shops, what are some red flags you've seen that made you deny a sale?

Legally buying a weapon in the United States is shamefully easy - but that doesn't mean there aren't times when a salesperson declines to sell a weapon to someone.

These are some of their stories.

The Consultation


As they were talking with me about various aspects of the purchase they would occasionally consult with the person that was with them. There was no person with them.

- _CattleRustler_


When I was younger, I landed a seasonal position as a gun counter person at a local gun store. I never actually received a training or anything on when and why to deny a sale. We were told to only deny a sale if it was a obvious "Straw-Buy," or a the background check came back as a no-go.

One morning, about 15 minutes after we opened, 2 females enter the shop. They stood at the door for a moment and I greeted them and asked if they needed help. One of them responded that they were looking for a gun for home defense. I said sure we had plenty for that purpose.

I began to show her some handguns and some 20 gauge pump shotguns. We chatted for a minute, but the other woman had not said a word the entire time. The other woman had not even glanced at her the entire time.

I asked if she's ever owned or fired a gun before, and she said no. So I suggested maybe attending some courses we offered right there in the shop. She declined and wanted to pick up a gun that day. She eventually settled on a .22 semi automatic pistol. I tried to explain to her that the .22 LR is a poor choice for self defense. It's actually better for a small game use and not effective for assailants.

I elaborated that while deadly, as any firearm bullet is, it was less likely to be a stopping round unless she was able to land precise shots, perfectly, every time. She argued that the .22 was perfect for what she wanted it for. Whatever, I can't change her mind and it was a fairly pricey 22 pistol, so I was happy to take the commission. As I had her take a seat in our back room and complete a background check, I had begun to box up the weapon.

The quiet woman approached me.

Turned out the woman was her sister and was very against the woman purchasing a gun. She had actually tagged along to try and convince her otherwise. She very quietly told me to not sell the woman a gun because she really wanted the firearm to shoot at some local kids on her street that skateboard near her property.

So THAT'S why she choose the .22. She saw it as a benefit that it was less likely to kill, and I had essentially argued for more reasons for her to settle on the .22. So I made the call, and decided to veto the sale. Luckily for me, she actually checked YES on the line that asks if you have ever been declared mentally defunct. Go figure.

I told the woman that I can't sell her the gun because she filled it out that way and that her owning a firearm would be illegal. So she just left the store, without a further word. Super weird.

- GordonChisolmDavis

Test It On Some People


I can tell you one time when I almost got denied for purchasing a rifle.

It was a bolt action .308 made by savage. The rifle came with a scope, not great but just a little extra over their standard rifle in that package.

The store was over an hour away and so I invited my younger brother to keep me company during the ride. He was 17 or 18 at the time. As I was wrapping up the sale we had friendly banter back and forth with the salesman and I was talking about videos of several men pegging pop cans at 1000m with this gun.

My brother, for whatever stupid reasons I can only attribute to being young and dumb says "yea we need to test it on some people."

Dumbfounded, I just looked at him and I was just thinking, what the hell why would you say that? The salesman was understanding and very kindly replied "you need to be careful with that language I can refuse this sale to you."

I politely apologized and reprimanded my brother for saying something that ridiculous.

- -a---q-p


I had one guy who was a resident from another state come in and say that he wanted to buy a CZ P-07. I told him I legally can't sell pistols to out of state residents and he got pissed and stormed off. Maybe 20 minutes later he comes back with his brother (who was an in-state resident) and as soon as his brother walks up to the counter he points to the EXACT same gun and says "I want to buy that one!"

He didn't even ask to hold it or look at it first. That's a clear straw purchase. I told them to kick rocks, I'm not going to break the law for you.

I had another guy try to buy a shotgun and answered yes to having been convicted of a felony. I asked him if he was actually a felon (you'd be surprised how many guys accidentally check the wrong box). This fool looked at me and said "yeah, is that a problem?" Dude. Yes its a problem.

- ChimyJimmy

Bullet Proof

A friend of mine sold guns at a sporting goods store a while ago. He had to deny a guy a gun sale of an AR-15 because the customer was wearing a bullet proof vest. People don't just walk around with bullet proof vests unless they're looking for trouble.

- Revenge_of_the_Khaki



Gun store I worked at had a varied and diverse clientele. Usually that meant that more law abiding citizens were looking to purchase firearms, but the usual wacko or two would come by. The one I remember clearest was the guy who came in and wanted to see only two types of firearms, a pistol grip shotgun and a large frame revolver.

As I was asking him what he wanted those specific types of firearms for, since they aren't really the greatest for home defense or personal protection, he tells me that he wants a revolver because it won't leave evidence at the scene of a shooting. I noped out of that one and told him we didn't have the type of equipment he was in search of. I passed along his name to the local police but nothing ever came of it.

- 91Foxtrot

Not Shooting The Wife

I used to work as management in Walmart and as such had to be licensed to do any job in the store, including firearm sales.

There had been many cases of background checks not clearing, which is normal. One that I made a judgment call to refuse, however, was the guy who kept joking that he most certainly was not under any circumstances going to use this .22 rifle to shoot his wife.

You'd get all sorts of rednecks who think they're hilarious while they're gearing up for the next hunting season, but by the third time he brought up not shooting his wife, I just shut down the entire process. Had to have him removed from the building after his breakdown turned verbally aggressive.

- JBP47

The Coming Race War

I almost got through the sale with one guy who wanted to buy a handgun. He was a little jittery and weird, but not quite enough to refuse a sale. But then he started talking about the possibility of the coming apocalypse, and the inevitable race war.

He mentioned how every race has committed genocide at some point. He didn't hate any particular race, but obviously we all have to stick together if it comes down to it. I explained that, despite our matching skin tones, he and I were not on the same page. Our store was not going to provide him with a firearm. He actually left without any argument.

- TryCoserious

A Manager's Approval


So this man comes in at 9:30, 30 minutes before closing. He has his two kids with him, and both of them look uncomfortable and won't make eye contact. The man is acting a little strange, too, and I feel pretty uneasy about it already, but I chalk all that up to maybe they're just a socially awkward family.

So, as we're doing the paperwork, the man is telling me about his life and what all is going on in it currently. Then he says he's divorcing his wife, and starts complaining about all the things he doesn't like about her.

His kids still haven't spoken a word or looked up, but they're so uncomfortable at this point that they're constantly shifting their arms and legs. I pretend to keep filling out the form while listening closely to what the man is saying. He mumbles under his breath, alllllmost where I couldn't hear him, "sometimes I could just kill her."

I was an 18 year old girl, completely alone on that entire half of the store, and I was flipping out big time inside. I pretended not to hear him, and kept "filling out the form" while actually cancelling it. Then I said "ok I'm at the point where I need a manager's approval for the form to go through. One second and let me get him and get the gun out of the back room."

So I go to the managers' office, and I tell my manager, "There's a man wanting to buy a gun, and I think he's going to kill his wife with it."

He says, "Ok, let me handle it and you stay in here until I come back."

By the time he comes back, it's already half an hour past when my shift ended. He said he had to get the police to escort the man out of the store. I believe that he was arrested but I can't entirely remember since it was a good many years ago.

That memory still scares me, because what if I hadn't have heard him? I was the only thing standing between him buying a gun that night to shoot his wife. I still wonder about what ever happened to them.

- yDoIm8kSOmanyofDeez


I used to sell firearms when I was in college. Only a few years ago though. 2016-2018.

There were a few times where I denied people that weren't already denied by the background check. Probably the most absurd was a guy that asked me: "What gun will have the most blowback if somebody comes in my house? I want to see him fly in another room like the movies."

That was an auto-deny from me and contacted my manager. Not sure what happened after that. Usually we would call all the other gun stores in the area (within an hr half drive) and share information.

- TheRaunchyFart

The ATF Call

A few years back I had a guy come in looking for a semi automatic pistol, he knew exactly what he wanted and after holding it he confirmed that was the one he wanted to purchase. I handed him some paperwork to fill out and instead of taking the pen, he snapped his fingers and this lady came from one of the aisles to fill out the paperwork. This was obviously fishy, so before I denied the sale I asked for his ID to make a photocopy.

I then proceeded to tell him that I couldn't continue with the transaction because it was obvious he was trying to do a straw purchase and he told me that he could do whatever he wanted and that I HAD to sell him the gun.

A little more back and forth continued and I eventually told him if he doesn't leave I was calling the police.

He left and I sent his info to a local ATF agent. Not 20 minutes later I got a call asking for all the info I had on him, when he arrived, when he left and what direction he went.

Turns out the guy was wanted for being a suspect for several murders and they couldn't track him down, hence why he wanted someone else to buy the gun.

- daisybooty

30 George Zimmermans


My brother owns a small gun shop. He gets a disturbing amount of people who think that buying a gun grants them some police powers. As in: "OK, I'm going to buy this gun and then head downtown so I can chase off those homeless guys by the Starbucks."

As my brother put it: "I never met George Zimmerman but I've had at least 30 of them come through my store."

- TheFire_Eagle

Negative Yelp Review

The buyer brought in his 10 year old son with him during our Glock sale day. He was being very discreet around his son, like he didn't want the boy to know he was buying a gun. He asked me to see "a Glock." I released the mag and cleared the G17, and handed him the gun.

He holds its with both hands viewing the side, while pointing in his sons direction, and click - at his son.

I stared dumbfounded for a minute and then said: "You just pulled the trigger and your son is standing right there.

"He said "Yeah but the gun wasn't loaded."

I countered by taking the gun back and refusing to sell him a gun unless he took a crash course with our shop instructor. He agreed as long as it would be quick enough where his son wouldn't notice.

We asked him to leave and gained a negative yelp review out of it too.

- goinv8huntin

Sleazeball Boss

I've wanted to deny sales back years ago when I worked at one, but my boss was a sleazeball and wouldn't let me.

Biggest time I wanted to deny? Guy came in, wanted like 12 Phoenix Arms pot-metal $75 little .25 ACP pistols. It was obvious he was going to resell. He also bought a TEC-9 and a KG-99.

I took my boss aside and was like "You're not really going to allow this are you? It's pretty obvious he's going to resell or something. Something definitely illegal is going to happen."

His response: "Pshh you don't know that. There's nothing illegal about buying that many guns."

I knew that but it's still suspect as hell especially with those cheap little pocket pistols. I guess the redeeming thing is even since he passed his background check, he bought more than one pistol in X amount of time (right then and there) so a special form is filled out to be sent to the ATF to check him out as a way to help stop illegal underworld dealers, etc. So I don't doubt an ATF field agent showed up at his place and asked a ton of questions.

- Folffairport

Saving His Son


I had come in to my local gun shop/range early to be the first customer because the store gets absolutely slammed on the weekend. A nervous looking older gentleman is also outside waiting. I can tell something is off about him. I enter and start talking to the salesman, and the other guy is hovering. My curiosity is peaked. The salesman starts talking to him and I can only make out certain parts. "Yes we know,.... its been passed down to everyone.... you don't need to worry sir... he will not purchase one from here...."

And then I figured it out. This poor father was trying to keep his suicidal son from buying a firearm.

He looked like he was ready to break down in tears. The salesmen all understood the issue and were very kind. As a father I just wanted to hug, or pat on the shoulder, and tell him he was doing the right thing. He left the store to go to another firearms store. His eyes were watery. This man loved his son, and was about to go to every place around and ask them not to sell to his son. It hit my black heart in the little feels it has.

- Im_caffeinated_chris

Mom Vs. The Salesman

Not an employee, but a customer.

I had decided to join the trap team at my high school along with my friends. I was only 15 or 16 at the time, so my mother came along to actually buy the shotgun for me.

We go in, look around, consult the employee, and decide on a Benelli supernova (fantastic all purpose gun if anyone is looking). My mom fills out the 2a, passes the background check, and is about to pay when the employee (who's been helping us the entire time) says "Sorry I can't sell you this gun. Buying it for your son would be considered a straw purchase, which is illegal."

After we argue back and forth a little bit, the owner of this small mom and pop shop comes out and asks what the trouble is. The employee tells him the situation, at which point the owner informs in a scolding-type or manner that it's perfectly legal for a parent to purchase a gun for their children as long as they live in the same house.

The employee, slightly embarrassed, finishes up our purchase and we got the gun. I don't blame the employee, in fact I admire him trying to do the right thing, but I was a little frustrated with the confusion and delay. I still frequent that store and have had no further problems. Definitely one of my favorite gun shops as the employees are very knowledgeable and friendly, and have a big husky that's always a treat to pet!

- DirtiestSpider1

This Sale Fail

Not a buy but an attempt to sell a gun.

I spent lots of time at gun shops and shows. Once at a gun show, a dealer who was a friend told us to watch the action toward the front.

A young man had come to his table looking to sell a gun. This was a pricey high end pistol and the guy was looking for just $200 out of it. For reference, it was worth more like $2000.

Dealer probes a little about how the young man had obtained this gun, but got lots of vague "I bought it last year" sorts of answers. Dealer says he cannot afford it. And as soon as the young man walks away, he flags over one of the police officers at the show. We watched as the police verified the gun was stolen and were arresting the young man.

- debbieae

"Just Wait"


My boss was finishing the background check and decided to let the customer and his friend test fire in the range while they wait. They pass the check, but as he goes into tell them, he overhears them saying things like, "Ya, he's gonna get what's coming to him. Just wait, he's dead the next time I see him."

Boss pretended the check didn't FAIL, but that the problem is on the checkers' end. They'll have to come back tomorrow.

As soon as they leave, boss called the cops and every other dealer in town to warn them. Cops picked the two guys up later that day.

- palauni1


Almost. Didn't have to actually deny the sale though. Would have if I got the opportunity, but it didn't get that far.

Him: "I need a gun"

Me: "... what kind?"

Him: "Shotty"

Me: "They're on the rack over there"

**5 minutes later**

Him: *sets gun on counter, displays wad of cash. Hands me $400* "here"

Me, declining the money: "actually, we need you to do a background check first"

Him: "what's a background check?"

Me: "basically we check for any felonies or other things that would prevent you from owning a gun."

Him: *immediately leaves*

- PMmechubbygirlbutts

Home Defense

Some meth head came in asking "whats your most deadly revolver?"

I then said "is it for home defense?"

and he did the classic movie cliche "uhhh yeah... home defense."

Denied the sale right away.

- talin_the_mistreated

Ranch House Or Town House


At a gun show in Texas. I wanted a new carry gun, so I was browsing the handguns when a couple next to me decide they want a nice Kimber 9mm. And why not? It's a great-looking gun. They start to fill out the paperwork, and get into a HUGE fight with each other about which address to use. Both are in Texas, so no out-of-state issues.

The lady behind the counter is trying to tell them to just pick one, it legitimately does not matter, but they get angrier and angrier about whether to "register" it to the ranch house or the town house. The lady tries to explain that there is no registry and it could not, ever, possibly matter, when the guy gets so frustrated he screams at the counter lady, "THIS IS TOO GODDAMN DIFFICULT JUST TO BUY A F*CKING GUN!"

She suspends the sale, tells the guy he's obviously of the wrong temperament to own a firearm, hopes he doesn't have others, and calls security.

The wife is now angry that they're NOT buying a gun, and I wanted to tell her that based on the scene I just saw, someone is saving her life or his and keeping the other out of prison.

- profssr_woland

Do Not Pass Go

I've overheard a co-worker working the firearms department be asked, "I need to see if it fits in this backpack first."

A school backpack.

Cue me standing behind him and waving at my co-worker silently with that "Do not pass Go, do not collect $200" wave you do with your hands kinda crossing, shaking my head, mouthing 'No no, HELL no'.

He didn't get sold anything, and the store owner alerted the ATF and FBI after we briefed him on what happened. No idea what happened to him, but CCW or not, he wasn't getting a gun from us.

- dunehound