Richmond man claims racial profiling when gun store owner refuses to sell to him

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond man claims he was the target of racial profiling after a gun store owner recently refused to sell him a weapon.

Video of the encounter has gone viral, but the store owner says he was following the law.

8News reporter Aaron Thomas went to the store to speak with the owner and get his side of the story.

The owner of Hopkins Gun and Tackle said in 50 years of sport goods sales, he has always aimed to provide great customer service. However, a customer who recently tried to buy a gun at the store says he received anything but that. Furthermore, he says his Second Amendment rights were denied.

The viral video has already racked up 4.5 million views on Facebook, capturing the encounter between the owner of Hopkins Gun and Tackle and a man frustrated over being denied service.

“You are stereotyping, right,” the customer said in the video.

“We have to follow all federal guidelines and we’re not going to sell you a gun,” Vance Hopkins, who owns the store, said.

Christopher Mason, the customer, said the treatment was uncalled for.

It all began when Mason and a friend stopped by Hopkins Gun and Tackle on Nov. 6 to pick up a shotgun he had on layaway.

Mason said as soon as they walked into the store Hopkins denied him service. Mason said he thinks it’s because of his skin color.

“His response to me was ‘we are not selling you or your friend any firearms because we have reason to believe you will take them and sell them to somebody else on the street.'” Mason said.

Shop owner Vance Hopkins says Mason is not telling the whole story.

“What happened on this occasion is I observed some things going on outside the store that led me to believe that this was a possible straw purchase sale,” Hopkins said.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Explosives, a straw purchase is the illegal purchase of a firearm by one person for another.

In this case, Hopkins said this judgment call had nothing to do with race.

“It’s probably been just as many white people that have been turned down as African Americans,” Hopkins said. “I need to see basically other people coming in with them, making motions and things like that.”

8News looked into Mason’s background and found that he would clear a background check, allowing him to buy a gun. He has bought several from that store in the past.

After the video went viral, Hopkins told 8News his shop has gotten one arson threat, but other than that business is the same as usual.

According to the ATF, licensed gun dealers have broad discretion to deny sales based on suspicious signs. They run the risk of losing their license if they allow someone to purchase a gun for someone else who isn’t legally allowed to have one.

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