you’ve probably got one in your community

So they arrested Trey Sudbrock again.

Who the hell is Trey Sudbrock? Nobody special. He’s a 21-year-old local guy who got dumped by his girlfriend. He’s just another guy at the intersection of male privilege, misogyny, and guns. There are tens of thousands of Trey Sudbrocks across These United States. You’ve probably got one in your community.

Here are the basic facts behind Trey Sudbrock’s story. on 24 November, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, he had a fight with his girlfriend. I don’t know what the fight was about, I don’t know who started it, or how it progressed. What I know is Trey Sudbrock was arrested and charged with domestic abuse. His girlfriend filed for a restraining order, which was granted. Sudbrock posted bond, and was released from jail with the proviso that he have no contact with his former girlfriend.

The story is pretty predictable from this point.

Trey Sudbrock

Trey Sudbrock

A week and a half later, on 3 December, Sudbrock violated that restraining order. During that incident, he killed his ex-girlfriend’s dog. Again, he was arrested. He posted bond and was again released. Then, on 23 December, the local sheriff arrested Sudbrock for the third time. He was charged with animal torture, stemming from the earlier incident.

Three days later, the day after Christmas, having been released from jail yet again, Sudbrock contacted a friend, asking to buy a gun. He allegedly told the friend he needed the weapon so he “could kill a lot of people.” He reportedly had US$2000 to spend on the firearm. His friend refused to sell him a gun, and instead reported Sudbrock to the Sheriff’s Office. Sudbrock’s been arrested yet again; this time he’s been charged with threatening terrorism — a Class D felony. The subsequent investigation revealed Sudbrock had contacted other friends about buying a firearm. They didn’t sell him one, but neither did they report him.

But guess what. Had his friends been less decent, they could have legally sold Sudbrock a gun. Or even loaned one to him. And had they done so, the odds are they would be completely free from any responsibility for whatever Sudbrock might have done with that gun.

As far as that goes, had Trey Sudbrock been patient enough to wait a couple of weeks, he could easily have bought a weapon from one of the unlicensed dealers at the gun show that’s going to be held next weekend at Adventureland Park in Des Moines. There were earlier gun shows he could have attended, but they would have required an inconvenient two or three hour drive.

Even though existing law prohibits anybody charged with or convicted of domestic abuse from buying a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer, there are almost always unlicensed dealers at gun shows. These unlicensed dealers are folks who don’t own a physical gun store. They have business cards, they sell firearms obtained directly from the manufacturer — new guns, still in the box, and they may make a substantial amount of their income from selling firearms and gun accessories, but they are considered by law to be private sellers, not ‘engaged’ in dealing firearms. And these unlicensed dealers don’t need to perform background checks. Even if they sell their weapons online.

That’s right, Trey Sudbrock could have gone online, bought himself a gun, and had it shipped right to his door. It’s easy. How easy? This easy.

Go to Pick out the gun you want. Create an account. Buy the gun.

Glock 42 -- US$399.00

Glock 42 — US$399.00

Let’s say Sudbrock wanted this sweet little Glock 42. It’s only a .380 caliber, so it lacks the stopping power of the 9mm, but hey, it would still do the trick. It’s less expensive than the 9mm too (with his $2000 Sudbrock could have bought five of these deadly beauties). If that’s not enough, the .380 is more easily concealed than the 9mm.

What about that inconvenient domestic abuse charge hanging over Sudbrock’s head? That awkward restraining order? No problem! All Sudbrock, as the buyer, would have to do is acknowledge the responsibilities listed on the seller’s website.

By purchasing through this system you agree to follow all manufacturer safety instructions and to only use the firearms in a safe manner in an approved area for a legal purpose.

Buyer assumes all responsibility for the legality of a specific item when you purchase it.

Buyer is responsible for securing your firearms from unauthorized use.

Buyer is responsible for checking all local laws before ordering or using an item that is sold here.

Buyer is responsible for complying with all firearms laws in your area.
Buyer must be of legal age to own any items you order.

Buyer must be at least 18 years of age to purchase ANY item from [name redacted]. Proof of Age can be requested prior to shipping an item.

Then it’s just a matter of waiting until that Glock arrives at the door.

Easy peasy, lemon breezy. For now.

This is one of the things that will change under President Obama’s new executive orders. If a gun seller has a website, if he has business cards, if he sells multiple firearms that are new from the manufacturer, if he obtains a substantial profit from those sales, he’ll be considered to be engaged in the business of selling firearms. That will obligate him to obtain a Federal Firearms License, and that will require him to conduct a background check on his customers.

The gun rights folks get one thing right: the executive orders issued by President Obama won’t stop mass murders. But they could prevent some of the Trey Sudbrocks of the world from buying a weapon at a gun show or online.

That’s a good thing.

It’s important to NOT allow the issue of mass murder frame the entire discussion about gun violence. This isn’t about trying to end mass murder. It’s about trying to reduce the level of overall gun violence — not just murders, but non-fatal shootings as well. It’s about making life a tad more safe for women like Trey Sudbrock’s former girlfriend.

They need that extra protection. Over the last decade, nine women were fatally shot by their domestic partners (husbands, boyfriends, and former husbands and boyfriends) every week. Every week. Easily twice that many are shot and survive. Something like 90% of those women who are shot had been physically abused on at least one prior occasion by the person who shot them.

If Obama’s executive orders make it even slightly more difficult for men like Trey Sudbrock to obtain a firearm, then it’ll be a success. It ain’t much, but it’s a start.


6 thoughts on “you’ve probably got one in your community

  1. My dad was once one of those people selling at the Des Moines show four times a year, as well as a dozen other cities and towns in Illinois and Iowa, usually about 40 weekends each year. However, he always had a federal license, always did background checks, and always made sure there was a local dealer he trusted when he was in Iowa, to hold on to the weapon for the length of the waiting period.

    In the end, there were too many who didn’t go to the steps that he did and he stopped selling guns and stuck to antique ammunition. All in all, I’m happy he retired from the circuit all together 15 years ago.


    • I’ve said this often enough, so you’re probably already aware of it — but I like guns. I think they’re fun to shoot. I come from a military family, most of whom are also hunters (or used to be — I’ve only got one cousin who continues to hunt). I grew up around firearms. I used to enjoy going to the range and having some friendly competition with my friends and family.

      But none of us hunt anymore (aside from my cousin) and we don’t go to the range, because it’s become an ugly place — full of racists and gun fetishists and hateful people.

      The problem, as you know, isn’t firearms themselves; it’s how easy it is to get them, and how ubiquitous they are, and the increasing militancy of gun nuts.


  2. When gun rights fundamentalists throw shade on the mentally ill for violence that isn’t borne up by statistics, what do they call guys like this? Because there are a lot of these people running around. Are they mentally ill? Is an attempt to acquire weapons a symptom? It’s a tangent from your post, but something that I’ve been thinking about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Guys like this are called ‘assholes.’ They’re not mentally ill, they’re inadequately socialized, and products of a culture that’s centered around male privilege and is generally misogynistic. They’re insecure and believe guns will somehow imbue them with confidence and a sense of immunity against change.

      They’d just be sad and pathetic, if they weren’t armed. Being armed makes them sad, pathetic, and dangerous.


  3. See, that’s just it; I probably don’t have one of these in my community. Of course there are violent and psychotic people – probably a few in my community. But thankfully in the UK shootings are still rare, we’ve always had stricter gun laws, and they’ve been tightened in recent years when incidents have happened. I just hope it stays that way.


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