Assault styled weapons are leaned and mounted on the pegboard wall at Nagel's Gun Shop.
Assault-style weapons are on display in 2018 at a San Antonio gun retailer. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Reacting to the mass shooting earlier this month at a high school in Florida, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced Wednesday new bans and age restrictions on firearms sales.

Customers enter Dick’s Sporting Goods at South Park Mall. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In San Antonio, where there are three Dick’s outlets and dozens of Walmart stores, business was swift on Thursday morning at the independent Nagel’s Gun Shop on San Pedro Avenue, currently promoting a “Second Amendment Sale.”

Nagel’s is one of 86 licensed firearm dealers in San Antonio, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) data, and one of 219 federal firearm license-holders, a group that includes weapons dealers, exporters, and manufacturers.

Standing in front of a display of Rugers, Smith & Wessons, and other semi-automatic rifles, Nagel’s salesman Bill Mochel told the Rivard Report that sales are “about normal,” right now, though he wouldn’t give specific numbers. He sells to novices and experienced owners alike.

“Guns are important to me, so I want everybody to have access to them,” Mochel said. “If someone’s not buying it here, I’d still like people to have access to it somewhere else.”

Mochel, a lifelong gun owner, believes the recent moves by Dick’s and Walmart to prohibit gun sales to anyone under 21 are “scare-mongering tactics” that won’t solve the problem of gun violence.

“It’s low-hanging fruit. It’s easy to say,” Mochel said. “That’s what they [other stores] do. They’ve always done that kind of stuff. It’s death by a thousand cuts. If they came out and said, ‘We want them all gone,’ everybody would say we’re not going to support that. But if they said, ‘We’ll take little bits at a time,’ that’s how they do it.”

The tactical weapon section of Nagel's Gun Shop.
The tactical weapon section of Nagel’s Gun Shop. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Dick’s CEO, Edward Stack, announced a ban on sales of assault-style rifles at its sporting goods stores and all 35 Field & Stream stores, as well as sales of high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, in addition to the age restrictions. Following the Florida shootings, it was revealed that the shooter had purchased a rifle from Dick’s in November, though it was not the same gun used in the school shooting.

Stack also urged lawmakers to enact common-sense gun reform and pass regulations involving assault-style firearms and high-capacity magazines.

“The high-capacity argument is fake,” Mochel said. “It’s like ‘assault’ rifle. Assault is an action, not a noun.” Gesturing to his gun displays, he added, “These [guns] are just rifles, just like the hunting rifles over on that counter.”

Royce Sample
Royce Sample Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Nagel’s customer and gun owner Royce Sample said he believes in the Second Amendment and his ability to defend himself and those he loves.

“So with that being said, these two businesses [Dick’s and Walmart] will help out other firearm dealers both big and small,” Sample said. “Shops like Nagel’s will see a large boost in sales and so will other shops like them. Academy, Bass Pro Shops, and Cabela’s will benefit also from this bad decision by these businesses.”

There are over 160 Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops retail stores in the U.S. and Canada, including a Bass Pro Shop near La Cantera on the far Northside. That store sells high-capacity magazines, according to Money magazine, which allow shooters to fire a higher number of rounds without needing to reload.

Texas-based Academy Sports + Outdoors has not announced any changes to its gun sales policies since the Florida shooting, and did not respond to requests for comment. There are more than 240 Academy Stores in 16 states, according to its website, with the first one having opened as a tire store in San Antonio in 1938.

Investigators of the Sutherland Springs shooting that left 26 dead in a church last year revealed that the gunman, of nearby New Braunfels, had purchased the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting at an Academy store in San Antonio in 2016.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 8,787 gun-related incidents this year, resulting in 2,340 deaths, 91 of them children and 447 teens. More than 250 of those gun incidents were labeled “defensive use.”

The total number of federal firearms licenses approved by the ATF in San Antonio has been steadily rising, from 196 in 2014 to 218 last year, even while gun ownership rates nationwide have declined.

On Thursday, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America together lauded Walmart for its decision to no longer sell firearms or ammunition to those under the age of 21. They made a similar statement following the Dick’s announcement.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, stated: “These corporate policy wins are additional proof points that the tide has turned in favor of gun safety.” Members of the San Antonio chapter of Moms Demand Action  have organized an information session for March 6.

This isn’t the first time Walmart has changed its policies on firearm sales, according to several reports. Despite company founder Sam Walton’s well-documented affinity for guns, Walmart ended sales of firearms entirely in 2006 at all but a third of its U.S. stores. Walmart stores do not sell handguns, except in Alaska.

Three years later, as sales slumped during the recession, Walmart again began selling shotguns, rifles, and ammunition at some stores. In 2015, it stopped selling assault rifles, including the AR-15.

Tactical assault rifles line the wall at Nagel's Gun Shop.
Tactical assault rifles line the wall at Nagel’s Gun Shop. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

It’s also not the first time Dick’s has taken such steps in the aftermath of a mass shooting. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012, Dick’s removed all guns from the store nearest the tragedy and suspended sales nationally for certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons.

In its 2016 annual report, Dick’s outlined for shareholders the financial risk of selling firearms of any kind. The report states, in part: “Any improper or illegal use by our customers of ammunition or firearms sold by us could have a negative impact on our reputation and business. We may incur losses due to lawsuits, including potential class actions, relating to our performance of background checks on firearms purchases and compliance with other sales laws as mandated by state and federal law.”

At Nagel’s, Mochel said they follow all the federal rules requiring background checks, which can take anywhere from three seconds to five days, depending on the client’s background. “A lot of people get denied, you’d be surprised,” he said. A sign posted near the back of the store, next to a map of dove hunting sites in Texas, states: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

“If someone’s acting a little shifty, I’m not selling you a gun. If someone looks weird, no,” Mochel said. “Just because someone is able to pass a background check doesn’t mean we have to sell it. So if someone is acting a little shifty, no, I’m not selling to them. Done that all the time. If he’s twitching, acting weird, asking stupid questions, no, I’m not selling you a gun.

“Safety is a very important deal.”

But he doesn’t feel the store is responsible if someone buys a gun and uses it to kill someone. “It’s the same thing – you go to a car dealership and buy a car, you go do something stupid with it, is the car dealership responsible?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...