Gun Dealer Linked to 3 Mass Murders Closes Up Shop
Eric Thompson shows a handgun to customer Nicholas Koch in his Green Bay, Wis., showroom. Koch, a regular customer and former Marine who has six or seven handguns at home, says he resents the blame Thompson receives for his customers' crimes: Its like Chevy getting blamed for people driving drunk. (William Glasheen / For The Los Angeles Times)
Police say Eric Thompson last month abruptly closed his Green Bay, Wis.-based business, TGSCOM Inc., as they probed scores of complaints from customers in nearly every state.
Thomapson made headlines in 2007 when it was revealed he had sold a .22 caliber pistol to Seung-hui Cho, who walked from classroom to classroom at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people.
He was later linked to the sale of two empty magazines and a holster to Stephen Kazmierck, who killed five people in a Northern Illinois University classroom in 2008.
Another customer, George Sodini, killed three women when he opened fire at a Pittsburgh-area health club in 2009.
Sodini bought an empty magazine and a magazine loading apparatus from the company.
In an interview with the L.A. Times in 2007, Thompson says he feels bad for the victims, but says its just business.
"I'm sure Wal-Mart has sold more weapons to killers than I have," he says. Liberal calls for more restrictions on gun sales only strengthen his resolve to stay in business: "As far as letting people's comments push me out, I feel that is like letting the bully win."
Thompson's firm, TGSCOM, runs more than 100 websites, each designed to appeal to a different segment of the gun market (and each calibrated to pop up high on Google searches). All told, he peddles 8,700 types of firearms, priced as low as $70 for a surplus rifle and as high as $8,800 for a shoulder-fired, semiautomatic, long-range rifle that takes jumbo .50-caliber bullets.
The thousands of gun accessories he sells -- grips, ammunition, barrels, holsters -- can be mailed to a buyer's home.
And Thompson told the Times, he believes guns are the answer, not the problem.
"I'm not going to say that we don't have a problem with violent crime in America," he says. "But there's a logical answer."
Thompson starts with the uncontested fact that campus shootings are often over before law enforcement can respond.
At Virginia Tech, Cho barricaded the classroom building and shot himself in the head as police broke through.
At Northern Illinois, Kazmierczak killed five students in less than two minutes; he committed suicide before police arrived.
But what if someone else in those classrooms -- a student, a teacher -- had been carrying a gun?
Isn't it at least possible some lives could have been saved? Isn't it worth giving our children that chance?
"Otherwise, it's 'Welcome to your killing spree,' " Thompson says. "Because there's nothing to stop these shooters."
He argues too that allowing guns on campus could deter future shootings.
The bad guys will always have guns, he says. It's time to make sure the good guys have them too -- and have them handy, even in algebra.