Guns in the City

Nevertheless, legally obtained guns do fall into the hands of people who use them in crimes. A study done in January 2004 by the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, noted that, in the years between 1996 and 2000, three years before Monson bought the business, 373 guns linked to crimes had been sold at Bill’s. No data has been compiled since then.

The city of Minneapolis has no shops that actually sell guns. The “last” gun shop in Minneapolis, near Lake Street and Chicago Avenue, is owned by Mark Koscielski and his partner Barbara Bergstrom. They don’t sell guns in the store because Minneapolis zoning regulations don’t permit guns to be sold at Koscielski’s location. In fact, Minneapolis zoning regulations don’t permit a gun shop to operate anywhere in Minneapolis, according to Koscielski. He only sells the guns displayed in the store at gun shows.

Koscielski’s store is the antipode to the military precision of Monson’s operation. The inside of the store is dark and jumbled. Targets, holsters, and other gun paraphernalia are scattered about the space. Koscielski is the originator of the “Murderapolis” T-shirt. One was displayed on a manikin on top of a shelf. Hand-made signs were here and there. There were a few guns in a case, but there were no price tags. There was no ammunition on the shelves. On the counter next to the cash register was a rack of business cards for various instructors, shooting ranges, and one for the Pink Pistols, with the legend “Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed!”

Koscielski himself sat, unshaven, on a stool in the middle of the room. He’s in his fifties and is a Vietnam vet. He was dressed in one of his varied collection of T-shirts, baggy jeans, and an open plaid shirt. He does have a pistol on his hip. He spoke deliberately. “Minneapolis has the idea that, if they zone gun shops out of existence, there will be no more guns.” Koscielski clearly doesn’t agree with that theory.

In fact, Koscielski said he’s helped take illegal guns off the street. Despite the fact that he receives no official cooperation from the Minneapolis Police Department, he said he’s helped various agencies solve gun thefts. “People bring hot guns in here for sale all the time,” he said. When that happens, he tells a friendly member of another law enforcement agency. According to Koscielski, warrants have been issued based on information he has provided, guns have been recovered, and thieves have been arrested.

Koscielski’s friend Mike (not his real name) backed up those claims. Mike is a plain clothes detective with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who is attached to a federal task force whose job it is to apprehend fugitives and sex offenders. “Mark has called me numerous times when he’s been suspicious,” Mike said. “His information has led to recovery of stolen guns, arrests of gang members, and arrests of people providing ammunition to felons. Mark’s been very helpful several times.”

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