Bass Pro’s background check policy raises questions

July 21, 2023

by Lee Williams

Cecil Trimble, a 35-year-old restaurant manager, took a fishing reel to Bass Pro Shop’s Tampa store last week to be respooled with new line. As he was waiting, he wandered over to the gun department and immediately spotted the object of his recent desire.

Trimble had been searching for a Sig P365 X Macro for weeks. The problem was, so had everybody else. Bass Pro wanted around $800 for the 9mm. Trimble didn’t hesitate. He told the salesperson he wanted it, completed a Form 4473 and handed over his Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License, which exempts him from a waiting period. Trimble had purchased numerous firearms from Bass Pro Shop in the past, so he expected to walk out of the store with his new pistol in minutes.

“The clerk came over and told me, ‘The ATF has approved you, but we’re denying the purchase,’” Trimble told the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project earlier this week.

Astonished, Trimble demanded to know what was going on. The salesperson said Trimble’s brother-in-law had tried to buy a firearm at the store a month ago but self-denied on the 4473 most likely because he misread a question. Unfortunately, Trimble’s brother-in-law, who had lived with him several years ago, moved out but never changed the address on his driver’s license.

“I asked the clerk how this had anything to do with me, and he said it was Bass Pro’s policy not to sell any firearms to anyone living at the same address as someone who has been denied,” Trimble said. “He hasn’t lived there for three or four years. I get the straw purchase thing, but he tried to buy a $200 revolver and I was trying to buy an $800 9mm.”

“The firearms manager agreed with me but could not get the GM of compliance on the phone to talk this out,” Trimble said. “As it stands now, I or anyone living at my address are barred from buying firearms from Bass Pro ever again.”

Trimble pointed out his brother-in-law is retired military, a Florida CWFL holder and not a prohibited person. He must have misread a question on the Form 4473, Trimble said. The staff wouldn’t relent.

“My main gripe is this: what if I moved into an apartment and the previous tenant was denied. According to Bass Pro, I couldn’t disprove it’s not a straw purchase, and I can never buy a gun from them again,” Trimble said.

Bass Pro’s response

Neither Bass Pro Shop’s corporate communications staff nor Jarron Ritchie, general manager of the Tampa facility, responded to multiple calls or emails seeking their comments for this story.

Calls to Bass Pro’s firearm compliance directors were referred to their corporate communications staff, who did not respond.

Multiple calls to the Tampa store’s gun department finally produced a brief interview with “Joe,” who said he was one of the store’s managers. Joe did not provide his last name.

At first, he tried to blame the ATF, but he later admitted, “We do keep a data log on this.” However, he would not discuss or disclose their corporate background check policy.

“Again, sir, we are talking about things that I at the store level am not allowed to go into,” Joe said.


It’s important to keep in mind that a gun dealer can refuse to transfer a firearm to anyone for any reason. In fact, they don’t need a reason to refuse a sale.

Also, the Biden-Harris administration has declared war on gun dealers. Federal Firearm License revocations have increased more than 500% since Biden took office. If the ATF was able to revoke the FFL of a big-box gun store like Bass Pro, the results would be cataclysmic for the store and its customers. Therefore, it is easy to understand why the sporting goods chain would want to be very careful when transferring firearms.

Still, Bass Pro’s straw purchase fears do not make much sense in this case. Straw purchases usually happen within 72 hours of a denial – not a month later – and nearly all of them involve the same gun – not a $200 revolver and then an $800 9mm.

Trimble was able to find and purchase a P365 from a local gun store the next day. The whole ordeal reminded him of another corporate mishap.

“Remember when Dick’s became anti-gun? This could be a slippery slope like Dick’s went through,” Trimble said. “They’re not preventing straw purchases. I answered that question on a federal form, which should be good enough. Bass Pro told me I’d get a call back from them the next day. I’m still waiting for that call.”

Legally, Bass Pro can concoct whatever policies they want, but they also should be willing to explain them when asked by the public. Even at the height of their lunacy, Dick’s still managed to do that.