- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

BRICK, N.J. (AP) - Not long after December 2012, Joe Veni’s neighbors in Brick started noticing how many people were visiting his house.

“My one neighbor says, ‘What are you selling that everybody wants?’” Veni said from his kitchen table, which doubles as his sales counter. “I said, ‘An AR-15.’”

Such semi-automatic rifles are legal in New Jersey with some modifications. And when efforts in Congress to tighten restrictions on them fizzled after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, they became a hot commodity for firearms dealers like Veni.

“I must have bought about 50 of them, and I had them all in my living room,” said Veni, whose home-based store is in a Brick neighborhood of evenly spaced, modest homes with well-manicured lawns. “People were coming in and out.”

Selling guns out of a home in New Jersey is perfectly legal, as long as proprietors are zoned for home-based businesses and have the proper state and federal paperwork - called federal firearms licenses, or FFLs.

In fact, it’s common: There are 368 FFL gun businesses in New Jersey and at least 140 operate from homes, according to an NJ.com analysis (https://bit.ly/1Muwnib ) of federal data, property records and maps.

The federal government does not track home-based gun businesses, so the analysis represents a conservative estimate, rather than an exact science. The businesses run the gamut, from gun-club enthusiasts who help their friends with online transfers and background checks a few times a year, to home businesses that sell dozens of guns out of neighborhood homes every month.

The number of those home-based gun businesses are steadily increasing as the number of gun shops in New Jersey grows at a faster rate than in any other state except South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida (New Jersey still has relatively fewer gun shops than most of the nation).

Just five years ago, there were about 100 home-based shops, while today there are at least 140.

“There’s a cultural thing - gun people are happier dealing with gun people, rather than large retail outlets,” said Robert Farago, the publisher of TheTruthAboutGuns.com, a website for gun enthusiasts. “But the one factor that overrides all of this is just this enormous growth in gun sales. Since the Obama surge first started, it just hasn’t stopped. There’s a market, and people rise up to take advantage of it.”

For gun proponents, it’s capitalism at work in a fundamentally American way: sellers and buyers in a free market exercising their Second Amendment rights. But for gun control advocates, such home-based arrangements are a cause for concern, particularly in New Jersey’s densely populated neighborhoods where residents are often unaware of gun shops tucked away in common suburban homes - near schools, next to churches.

“We know that residential burglaries are commonplace, unfortunately,” said Allison Anderman, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a research group that advocates for stricter gun control. “When dealers store a large number of guns and ammunition in residences, they are more likely to enter the illegal marketplace.”

Robert Teodorczy opened his Cheyenne Gunsmith & Firearms in 2014. The store averages 40 to 45 transactions a month, he said.

Teodorczy said the increased demand is a reaction to calls for more gun control. In 2005, the federal government carried out about 36,000 background checks for gun purchases in New Jersey. Already this year, through October, that figure has almost doubled, to 70,000.

“Because New Jersey makes it harder for you to get a gun, it makes people more determined to get a gun,” Teodorczy said.

The state requires several extra security precautions and inspections for gun dealers. He must lock up his inventory at night in secure safes. He has an alarm system - also mandated by New Jersey (but not in many other states). His home is also ringed by a stockade fence, even though it’s not required. Unannounced state and federal inspections, carried out about every three years in New Jersey, can last up to four hours.

He had to pass background checks to get a license to sell guns. Like other gun dealers, Teodorczy takes care of the National Instant Criminal Background Check.

“If you don’t know about guns, doing this job is no good,” Teodorczy said. “You’ve got to know what’s legal and not legal in New Jersey.”

To those who regulate the gun market in New Jersey, there is no real difference between an at-home gun shop and a typical storefront.

“We really treat it all the same way,” said John Curtis, who oversees six Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators from his office in Woodland Park.

George Belsky, the special agent in charge of the ATF in New Jersey, agrees.

“In my experience as a case agent in other states, there are great home-based FFLs, there are great storefront FFLs,” Belsky said, using the acronym for federal firearms licenses. “I’ve worked cases on home-based guys that were selling stuff off the books to bad guys, I’ve worked storefronts that were doing the same thing. It’s the individual that you have to look at.”

As more shops open, inspectors are pressed for time to complete inspections each three years, officials said. In fact, a recent U.S. Department of Justice report recommended New Jersey add four inspectors.

___

Information from: NJ Advance Media.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide