A man who had to hire a lobbyist to help him navigate regulatory hurdles to become the first and only licensed Washington, D.C., gun dealer in nearly a year is now seeing business boom.
Shawn Poulin, the owner of D.C. Security Associates, located on K Street in Northwest, said he had to spend thousands of dollars on a lobbyist to help navigate the city's complex rules and regulations on firearms businesses. "People told me, ‘Be prepared to deal with D.C. government, they're as corrupt as anyone else,'" he said. "I had to get a lobbyist and I was getting friction from the permit zoning guys."
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) and the police department did not respond to questions about Poulin's difficulty in getting approval for his store.
After pushing through the roadblocks and being approved to open in January, Poulin said his store has seen between 15 and 20 handgun transfers per day. The transfer process that saw some residents caught in a weeks-long wait when the Metropolitan Police Department ran it has been dramatically reduced. Poulin said the store has managed to help customers through the transfer and registration process, which at one point took months, in under 10 days.
"The reaction to the store seems to be very positive," Poulin said.
Poulin's new venture pulls D.C. out of a legally perilous arrangement. Experts warned in June the police department acting as a federal firearms licensee (FFL) could create a conflict between the licensee's requirement to keep records of all gun transfers and a federal law barring governments from keeping a database of those records. The bottleneck created by police processing of the transfers led Dick Heller, who previously defeated the city's handgun ban at the Supreme Court, to threaten a new suit against the city.
Since D.C. has no gun stores and federal law requires handguns bought across state lines to be transferred through a licensed dealer in the buyer's home state, the only way to legally purchase a handgun in the city is to buy one out of state and have it transferred in. Until March 2020, there was a single licensed dealer in the city, and he closed up shop just as coronavirus-related demand for handguns began to skyrocket. That left no legal options to buy a handgun in D.C. until the police department became licensed itself.
The police department said, now that Poulin's store is open, it will no longer be performing new handgun transfers. "All new FFL business will go through private FFL dealers," the department said in a statement.
The bottlenecks created by the police department's processing delays have not completely subsided, though. Poulin said while his store's transfer process remains quick, the police department's registration process has slowed. Wait times for registration appointments now stretch to April.
Poulin said the store has seen an influx of first-time gun buyers looking for self-defense options since opening. He said those buyers have also become training customers, joining the store's concealed carry permit and simulator classes. The store's simulator is one of the only available practice ranges for civilians in D.C. since there are no live-fire ranges open to the public.
"Our system has actual recoil," Poulin said. "So, you actually get a realistic feel when firing."
Poulin said the store's firearms training and gunsmithing services have seen especially high demand. He said the store's variety of offerings sets it apart from the barebones transfer process that had been offered by the police and the previous dealer.
"We want somebody to be able to come in and be able to get the full firearms experience from their firearms training to modifying D.C.-compliant guns to transfers," Poulin said. "We're hoping to do so much more than what was previously there."
The store does not plan to start selling guns directly to customers anytime soon, though. Instead, it will work with its Arlington, Va., sister shop NOVA Armory, a full-fledged gun store also owned by Poulin. D.C. customers will be offered free shipping on guns purchased at NOVA Armory.
D.C. Security Associates is currently the only licensed dealer accepting handgun transfers in the city, but that may soon change. The police department's website of authorized dealers lists G&D FFL, though the company's site says it has yet to obtain its federal license or open for business.