Sheriff to gun shop owners: Secure your handguns

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At Bachelder Master Gunmakers in Grand Rapids, would-be thieves face many hurdles: bars on all doors and windows, motion sensors and a safe that holds all handguns after hours.

That’s unlike many other shops, where handguns, the targets of thieves, are stored in glass display cases.

“The more measures a shop like this takes, the safer the community’s going to stay,” said Bachelder Operations Specialist Jake Lowing, who wonders why other shops don’t take the same precautions.

“You know, I couldn’t speculate on that, in all honesty,” Lowing said.

Police are asking gun shop owners to tighten security after thieves got away with handguns from four West Michigan shops in less than a week.

“Lock down that weapon completely,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young urged. “You won’t have it ripped off. It’s as easy as that. If you had a safe, you’re not going to lose anything.”

Thieves hit Barracks 616 in Cascade Township early Wednesday,  getting away with 23 handguns. Then on Sunday, between 2:30 and 5 a.m., thieves hit three more times. They took five guns from Armory Valentine in Kentwood. They made off with an unknown number of weapons from Imperial Gunworx in Sparta and then Long Range Archery and Firearms in Holland Township.

In all three Sunday thefts, they broke in through glass doors.

  • kentwood armory valentine break-in
  • kentwood armory valentine break-in
  • imperial gunworx break-in
  • imperial gunworx break-in
  • Long Range Archery and Firearms break-in
  • Long Range Archery and Firearms break-in

“Our working theory would be that they’re related and that we need to work together to solve these crimes,” the sheriff said.

In two of the cases, police said there were four suspects. In Holland Township, they fled in a dark-colored SUV.

The sheriff said she expects more break-ins.

“Our history is, until you get a substantial lead and make some progress on the case, they’re going to keep on doing it,” she said.

On Monday morning, Grand Rapids police investigated a break-in at Rylee’s Ace Hardware on Michigan Street NE near Fuller Avenue, which no longer sells guns. It’s not clear if that’s what they were looking for.

The sheriff said her department is working with others, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But, she said, they need help from shop owners.

“Whether you’re a homeowner with weapons in your home or if you’re a business owner with weapons in your business, you have a beyond normal responsibility to secure those because of the danger they present if they’re stolen,” LaJoye-Young said.

She recommended shops remove their handguns from glass display cases after hours and store them in a secure room or a safe.

A man who identified himself as the owner of Imperial Gunworx in Sparta says he hopes to put up cages in his doors and windows.

“We want to be able to cage the whole front of this store,” he said, though that will require approval from the village of Sparta.

Back at Bachelder in Grand Rapids, thieves tried breaking in two years ago but didn’t make it past the bars in the front door. Bars cover every door and window.

“We believe that once they saw there were bars, they gave up and went away,” Lowing said.

The attempt is what led them to install the safe, which he said cost no more than $1,000.

“It seems to be all handguns that they’re interested in,” Lowing said. “They’re easily concealable; they’re easily sellable on the street.

“Gun shops are advertised. They (thieves) know that we have them,” he continued. “They’ll research ahead of time. They’ll take a look inside, they’ll take a look at how easily accessible everything is.”

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call 1.800.ATF.GUNS.

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