Loaded gun, or expectation of one, makes difference to small retailers
by Brian Anderson
Sep 10, 2012 | 13400 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD — There’s a small bullet hole in the window of Stinson and Howard Fine Jewelry.

The damage is left over from an attempted robbery two weeks ago at the small shop on Main Street in downtown Oxford, after one of the store’s owners, Sam Stinson, fired at an intruder who had entered the store brandishing a handgun.

Keeping a loaded gun behind the counter might have not simply prevented a robbery, it could have possibly saved Stinson’s life.

“Well, nobody got killed, so I guess it turned out all right,” Stinson said Friday about the incident. “I am just thankful no one got hurt.”

Stinson, who has been an owner of the store for 18 years, said he started keeping a gun behind the counter about 10 years ago as a reaction to what he saw as a changing climate with more and more stores, banks and businesses being robbed.

It’s apparently a common feeling among pawnbrokers and shop owners in the area.

“All of us here are carrying,” said Dan Griffin, who owns Midway Pawn Shop just down the street from Stinson’s store in Oxford. “It’s necessary in this day and age. I wish I didn’t have to, but that’s just the way it is.”

Ricky Hinds at Quintard Jewelry and Pawn in Anniston said it’s possible the loaded guns they keep behind the counter at their store are deterrents to would-be criminals.

“Knock on wood, we haven’t been robbed,” Hinds said. “My experience has always been, you sell guns, they think they’re loaded.”

Laws in Alabama give a wide range of protection to store owners in robbery situations, said Oxford police Lt. L.G. Owens. For starters, an owner of a business does not need a pistol permit to carry a loaded weapon in his shop.

Additionally, an owner who feels his life is being threatened no longer must retreat first, as the law once required.

“No one is going to expect you to sit back if you think your life is going to be taken from you,” said Owens, but added, “sometimes, it’s better to be a good witness.”

Owens said he recalled an incident in Oxford involving a robbery of a video store when an employee was able to fire a shot to scare away the robber and got a description of the getaway car to give to police. They were able to catch him within minutes, Owens said.

But not all situations leave time for critical thinking, Owens said. Ultimately, any person carrying a loaded weapon needs to understand the responsibilities that go along with gun ownership and talk to law enforcement officials about laws and their rights to protect themselves.

“In the end, if you take away a person’s life, you’re the one who’s going to have to live with that,” Owens said. “And unless you yourself have been put into one of those situations, you don’t need to be critiquing someone who has.”

Stinson said while the gun in his store has always been there for safety, he’s now used it just once in 18 years, and he plans not to have to use it again any time soon.

“You need to be well-versed in guns,” Stinson said. “You never use a gun unless you feel threatened, and I think someone coming through the door pointing one at you is good reason to feel threatened.”

Stinson said it’ll be another two weeks before he can get a new pane of glass to replace the Main Street shop window damaged by the bullet. But in terms of safety, the robbery hasn’t done anything to change his mind about keeping a gun in the store.

“I don’t feel any more or less safe now as I did then,” Stinson said. “Nothing’s changed.”

Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star. Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect first name for Sam Stinson.
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