Glen Burnie gun store is closing Shop was scene of fatal shootings

February 09, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Colonial Arms & Sporting Goods, a Glen Burnie gun store that was the scene of a 1987 shooting that left its owner and the gunman dead, is closing its doors.

A fixture in the community for 10 years, the store endured an increase in gun shop robberies and break-ins that seemed to parallel the increasingly violent society. And the employees say restrictive gun laws -- such as waiting periods for handgun purchases -- helped drain their profit.

"I'm going to play golf," said Joseph Serio, 63, who has managed the shop for 32 years, since founder John Hittle first opened a store in Halethorpe. He moved into the white rectangular building at the corner of Baltimore and Annapolis Boulevard and Maple Lane in 1982.

"I'm very sad to see this go," said a 67-year-old man who bought his first gun, a .410 shotgun, from the original store in Halethorpe. "They had a lot of bad times here, but they've gotten through them.

"If this place was sitting on Ritchie Highway, they would be doing a booming business. But sitting back here, they don't do too well."

The man, who lives in Halethorpe, would not give his name. He said he bought the shotgun at the urging of a judge. "The judge told me the law couldn't protect me," he said. "He told me to get one. I never had to use it for the purpose for which I got it."

On Friday, the man was shopping for new handgun grips. "Somebody told me they were going out of business and they were pulling things out of the woodwork," he said.

The shop has been known throughout the state for good deals and knowledgeable employees, people who had spent decades selling guns and supplies.

But the small shop also is known for horror.

Five years ago, an enraged gunman burst into the store after killing his girlfriend's mother and shot the owner to death. Mr. Hittle was not carrying a gun.

Mr. Hittle's son John, an off-duty Anne Arundel County police officer, shot and killed the gunman moments later.

In 1976, at Firearms Unlimited in Halethorpe -- Mr. Hittle's first gun shop -- a gunman burst into that store and fatally shot an employee.

Friday, as customers were scrounging for bargains, two employees who witnessed the slayings in the Glen Burnie store were only thinking ahead.

Charles Hittle 3rd, another son of the slain founder, now owns the store, but also has another full-time job. He said he never thought about giving up the store, even after his father was killed.

Mr. Hittle was wearing a sidearm; a police scanner droned in the background. There have been two break-in attempts at the store since Thanksgiving.

"It's a risky business," said Mr. Serio, 63. "We've been very lucky."

Store employees, who announced a going-out-of-business sale in a Thursday newspaper advertisement, said it simply was time to retire. The store will close permanently Feb. 26. Until then, owners will try to sell out the stock.

The guns are going fast.

There are hardly any handguns left, and other weapons are selling at a quick pace. "The phone is ringing off the hook," Mr. Serio said, after hanging up on a call from Towson. "There aren't too many bargains left that people want."

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