For the second time this year, thieves used a stolen vehicle t ram their way into the Valley Gun Shop in Parkville, taking 20 rifles and handguns early yesterday in a raid that left owner Bob Abrams vowing to build a fortress around his shop.
"We're going to put poles up outside every two feet," Mr. Abrams said as he swept chunks of broken window glass and bricks from the sidewalk in front of the store at Harford Road and Taylor Avenue. "After that, there won't be any way to get in short of blowing the whole damn thing up."
The gun and sporting goods store was burglarized in a similar fashion on Feb. 6 when thieves drove a stolen 1989 Buick LaSabre through the front door and got away with 14 handguns.
In response, Mr. Abrams and his father, Mel, erected steel barriers in front of the doors of their shop -- but not in front of the windows.
Yesterday's theft took place after the thieves drove a stolen Toyota pickup truck over the sidewalk curb, up two steps and through a three-foot brick foundation and eight-foot window of the gun shop at 5:06 a.m. -- the time that the store's alarm was triggered.
The thieves jumped out of the truck and squeezed through steel security bars that were welded to the window. They ran into the store, stripped the rifles from a wall display and cleared out a glass handgun display case.
One thief was stationed outside of the gun shop to receive the weapons -- believed to be six to eight automatic rifles and 12 handguns and revolvers -- and throw them into a waiting sports car parked outside, police said.
The Toyota truck, which police said was stolen minutes before the gun shop break-in from a house in the 7700 block of Queen Anne Drive, near Valley Gun, was abandoned as the suspects escaped in the sports car. The car was followed by a taxi driver who witnessed the theft, but the cabbie lost sight of the getaway vehicle near Perring Parkway, Mr. Miller said.
Two people witnessed the crime and told police that four young men burglarized the store.
County police arrived at the gun shop within three minutes of the break-in, Mr. Miller said .
The thieves did extensive damage to one quarter of the store's front that faces Harford Road, Mr. Abrams said. A radiator was knocked out of the wall and the spray of glass scratched a number of rifles and handguns that were displayed. Four glass display cases were also destroyed.
"I'm furious," said co-owner Mel Abrams, who has been a gun dealer for 43 years. "I really didn't need this at this time of the year, at this holiday time. It gets me ticked off. What are you supposed to do? I'm getting too old for this job."
The gun shop was open for business as usual yesterday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Employees wore sidearms as a robbery deterrent, which they do every day, Mel Abrams said. Curious customers and Sunday drivers stopped by to check out the damage.
"I wanted to know was he drunk. . . I thought it may have been someone who ran off of the road," said Kevin McCleary, a 28-year-old Cub Hill resident who came to the store to purchase a handgun. "This happens a lot to gun shops -- that's how people get illegal guns, they steal them."
Similar burglaries of gun shops -- thieves ramming cars into the front doors or windows -- have occurred in Maryland and Virginia over the past two years, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In 1991, thieves used a car to run into the front of Walter's Gun Chamber in the 8200 block of Harford Road, taking 17 handguns and rifles.
In a more violent attack in Sept. 1991, Charles E. "Eddie" Scheuerman, the owner of the Northeast Gun Shop in the 4900 block of Belair Road, was fatally shot during a robbery in which 50 weapons were taken from his Gardenville store.
Eight men later pleaded guilty in the case.
Mel Abrams speculated that the weapons taken yesterday were sold within hours, mainly to drug traffickers.
As the front window was being boarded up, Mr. Abrams paid some employees overtime to patrol the shop with rifles last night.
One worker, Patrick Loughlin, was disgusted as he cleaned up the broken glass.
"We have lost control of this country," Mr. Loughlin said.
"If they get caught, they'll do squat. They will be out on home release. Criminals are running the country now. You know about the war on drugs? Well, we've lost."