LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Like many Americans, Chris Michel woke up last Monday to horrific headlines of a massacre in Las Vegas.
CHRIS MICHEL: I didn't know who or what was going on at the moment. And then as soon as I was into a couple different news feeds, his name cropped up, and I remember exactly, you know, who he was and that he had been in our store.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was a customer at Michel's gun store in St. George, Utah. He visited three times earlier this year.
MICHEL: Everyday guy - he'd be the guy you'd sit next to in church or you'd bump into in the grocery store. And he'd say, excuse me. And you'd walk right on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was he telling you that he wanted and why he wanted guns?
MICHEL: You know, he just told us he had moved to the area recently and that he was looking to get back into his hobbies.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Did he seem to know what he was talking about? I mean, did he seem familiar with the different weaponry and caliber bullets and all the other stuff?
MICHEL: You know, he was familiar enough with everything to pass off as a novice. You know, he came in, and he would ask different questions about firearms or ammo or this accessory. Or how would this accessory work on this firearm? - and things like that. But, again, just normal, everyday questions that I'd get from any number of customers.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Michel sold Paddock a shotgun. And in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Michel is asking himself a lot of questions.
MICHEL: Did I miss anything? Did I miss a red flag? Could I have stopped this? He was a perfectly legitimate customer that asked the right questions that would get rid of any red flags. You know, I've been up, you know, multiple hours of the night thinking about all these kind of things. And it just keeps coming right back to the same thing - is that we did everything that we could've done to stop this in any shape or form. But yet it still happened.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you talk me through a little bit how you screen customers? Do you turn people away? What are the red flags that you might be looking for when you are talking to people about firearms?
MICHEL: Yeah. The first off is that we do have federal paperwork that has to be filled out with every firearm sale. But at the same time, we as gun dealers - in my opinion, we're the frontline. We're the people that are supposed to be kind of looking for those wrong signals or red flags. Things that we look for is specifically pointed questions. If I have somebody that comes in, and they could care less for everything else in the store - they're just looking for one specific firearm, and they're looking for that one specific ammo, those are red flags.
From time to time, I get angry people that just come in. And little by little, again, we try and talk to them. We try and figure out what's going on. If they're angry, we try and figure out, why are you mad? Did you just get cut off in traffic? Did you just lose cell phone service during a really important business meeting? - you know, those kind of things. We want to find out what's going on with them so that we can turn around and look at it and go, is that really your motive? Are you looking for a firearm for the right purposes or the wrong purposes?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm wondering, how often does this happen? And could you give me an example of a situation like that?
MICHEL: You know, I had a person not too long ago in the past that I could see was really, really angry with their spouse. And they were looking for a pistol, a small pistol that they could conceal. The way that they were talking about it - the situation was, you know, I'm angry with the way that they did this to me. And I'm angry with the way that they did that to me. And I finally just walked over to this person. And I just said, you know, I don't think you're in the right mindset to be purchasing a firearm.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you report them?
MICHEL: Yeah. I mean, I can call up, you know, different agencies if I have enough information. And in this instance, I did. I do know that, you know, a couple days later, I saw the same person was booked into the jail for domestic violence. You know, for me, that helps me to sleep at night because just maybe that firearm that I would've sold that person - what would it have done if it would've been used in that crime?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Were there other instances where maybe something bought from your store, you know, was used to commit a crime, or is this the first time that you've had to deal with something like this?
MICHEL: You know, it comes around. This is the first time where it's been national, and we've had all kinds of coverage of it. But it is not an uncommon thing to have the FBI or the ATF call up and say, we need to know this person's information or what happened with this situation. That happens probably every couple months.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, many Americans are very supportive of gun rights. But many Americans, especially after an event like this, feel that they'd like to see stricter gun laws. They're people who are scared, who feel powerless in the wake of these mass shootings. Do you understand that point of view?
MICHEL: You know, I'm not saying that I can understand it because my point of view is a little different. I definitely get where they're coming from and the fear that it can bring. I don't believe we need more regulation. There's thousands upon thousands of firearm laws that are on the books right now. I do believe, though, 100 percent that we should have more enforcement of these laws. Again, there is no way in my opinion that we could have put a ruling in place that would've stopped this this individual from receiving these firearms.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you've mentioned that you're on the front lines. And you're almost scanning people to see what their emotional or psychological state is. When you turn them away, are you worried that they're going to go to another gun dealer? And is that where enforcement comes in?
MICHEL: You know, here, where we're at, we have, you know, a number of dealers. And most of them we can call up and say, hey, FYI. Or, usually, when I call up the law enforcement and say, hey, this is what we just experienced, they will turn around and call up any of the other dealers that are around town and kind of spread the word as much as possible.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does that feel structured enough for you - that it's sort of word of mouth as opposed to an actual process?
MICHEL: That's a great question. You know, my gut is telling me that there probably should be something that is a little bit more formal. But at the same time, if you did that every time we experience somebody in the grocery store - OK? - that's angry about something, would we want to put them into the same system or into the same process?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's not the grocery store. It's a firearms store.
MICHEL: You're correct right now. But it's the next thing - the hardware store, the guy that goes around and does the same thing in the middle with a hammer. Again, what happened in this situation is that somebody was bad, bought stuff legally, used it illegally. And now we're trying to look back and say, how could we have stopped that? And I don't know or have not heard of one process that would change that outcome.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Chris Michel, owner of Dixie GunWorx. He sold a gun to the Las Vegas shooter.
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