Large Wheat Ridge gun store subject to IRS search days after robbery

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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. -- As if the owners of the Gunsmoke gun store in Wheat Ridge weren't having a bad enough month, their business became the subject of a court-ordered IRS search warrant Friday.

The warrant was served just nine days after the store, which was featured on the Discovery Channel’s reality TV show “American Guns” two years ago, was robbed on Feb. 27.

According to IRS Special Agent Bryan Thiel, investigators arrived at the gun store at 8:30 a.m. to execute a warrant that was part of a financial investigation.

Thiel, who serves on the IRS' criminal investigation unit, didn't thoroughly explain the details of that investigation. He was also unwilling to confirm or deny that the search warrant was related to the robbery nine days ago.

He did say, however, that it usually takes a good deal of time to develop probable cause for a warrant, so there is a good chance the business was being investigated before the burglary.

The IRS was still in complete control of the business as of noon Friday, but Thiel said they would relinquish that control upon the conclusion of the warrant, the details of which were still sealed as of Friday afternoon.

Thiel did not expect any arrests to be made in connection with the case Friday.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said 12 handguns and three rifles were stolen from Gunsmoke during the burglary on Feb 27. Wheat Ridge Police said the thieves entered the store through a hole in the roof and exited through a broken window.

A witness who was directly across the street from the gun shop at the time of the burglary reported seeing a silver, two-door vehicle leaving the scene. Gunsmoke does not have any security cameras, and police were yet to name any suspects as of Friday afternoon.

If the thieves made off with any assault weapons that turn up later in a crime, store owner Rich Wyatt says the victims could sue him under a law being debated at the Colorado State Capitol Friday.

“According to this new strict liability proposal, if someone steals a gun, buys a gun, transfers a gun in any way through us, we could be held accountable for whatever they do with the gun," Wyatt said. "And that’s ridiculous.”

Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), who is pushing the bill, disagrees.

"What this bill does is recognize if you choose the dangerous path of manufacturing, selling, acquiring or shooting one of these guns, you’ll be held to a very high standard of responsibility because you put all of us at risk," Morse said.