Two men, one armed with a handgun, took over a Lansdowne gun shop yesterday morning, tied up its owner and made off with 17 high-powered weapons, leaving two cash registers untouched.
"The value of these firearms far exceeds what can be taken from the cash registers," said David C. Troy, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "[Cash] is usually the farthest thing from their minds."
Clyde's Sport Shop in the 2300 block of Hammonds Ferry Road was the 60th gun shop to be robbed in Maryland and Virginia during the past 16 months. The shop's owner, Clyde J. Blamberg, estimated the stolen guns were worth between $5,000 and $6,000. Guns that retail for $400 to $800 are selling for twice that amount on the black market, Mr. Troy said.
"This has become a very disturbing trend," Mr. Troy said. "It's a sign of the times. Criminal elements, most of them in the drug trade, have an insatiable appetite for firearms."
Yesterday's robbery began about 7:30 a.m. The shop had just opened when one of the men walked in and asked for some bloodworms, Mr. Blamberg said. The man then grabbed him from behind, put a gun to his head and ordered him to the floor.
"Look, I'm going to blow your head off if you don't get down on the floor now," Mr. Blamberg said, recalling what he was told. "My knees kind of buckled, and I went to the floor."
While one of the men tied up Mr. Blamberg with leather shoelaces and sprayed him with Mace, the second man came in, kicked in two gun cases and took .38-caliber hand guns, 9mm and 10mm pistols, and .357 and .44-caliber Magnums.
"They didn't take any ammunition or bother any of the cash registers," Mr. Blamberg said. "It was real fast, an in-and-out deal."
Over 1,200 handguns have been taken in the gun thefts in Virginia and Maryland, but only about 120 have been recovered, some in other crimes, said Mr. Troy of the ATF. Five of the thefts were armed robberies, of which all but one happened in Maryland. The major incidents included the October robbery of a gun shop in Havre de Grace, in which the two elderly women who ran the store were killed. The case remains open.
In September, the owner of a gun store on Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore was killed and a customer wounded during a robbery at that shop. Several men have been arrested in connection with that case.
The robberies represent a change in tactics by criminals who used to get their weapons by using other people as buyers, or by using forged identification, Mr. Troy said.
"They are eliminating the middle man now and getting them themselves," he said.
Mr. Blamberg said he feels fortunate the men who stormed his store yesterday only took the weapons.
"This is the first armed robbery of this sort at our shop since we opened in 1957," he said. "We've been lucky so far. I feel very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse. You can replace merchandise, but you can't replace a life."