Sandwiched between a row of different long-barreled guns that rest on a wooden rack and metal shelves filled with boxes of ammunition, Gary Dombrique’s hand hovers near the weapons as his eyes scan the beige tags.
Dombrique is caged not only by the seemingly endless amount of firearms, but also by the bars protecting them. He plucks one gun off the rack, examines the body, and begins to set it up on the beige case of another gun — right above a yellow “Don’t tread on me” sticker.
The weapon, which Dombrique uses to train his son, is one of many that reside in the Max Pawn luxury shop as part of the store’s free gun storage program. Las Vegas residents without a safe or secured area can store their guns for free at the store on West Sahara Avenue as long as they have a valid state identification and are of legal age to possess a firearm.
Before Max Pawn started its program a year ago, nobody would expect to find a makeshift gun locker amid old Louboutins and a Hermes bicycle, but that didn’t deter owner Michael Mack. His shop runs the only free gun storage program in all of Las Vegas, Dombrique said.
“We launched the program as a community service; we’ve seen more and more examples of guns falling into the wrong hands and we wanted to offer an alternative,” Mack said.
A study from Johns Hopkins University found that more than half of U.S. gun owners do not safely store their weapons. Of the homes with guns stored unsafely, 34% housed children under the age of 18.
Cassandra Crifasi, the study’s lead author, noted that “household gun ownership can increase the risk of homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings in the home, but practicing safe storage for guns reduces these risks.”
In a state where almost 40% of its residents own guns, safe storage is an important topic that many Nevadans may be familiar with.
Despite knowing that the program “costs Max Pawn money” and “doesn’t offer any financial incentive to (their) associates,” Mack hopes it will continue because “it’s right for the community.”
Dombrique, a manager and gun safety expert, has worked for Max Pawn since early 2021. He has seen an influx of people bring in their firearms to store, some with simple handguns and others with weapons decorated to assist in long-range shooting.
“These — guns — to men are like jewelry to women,” Dombrique said with a laugh as he placed his hand against a wall of cubbies stocked with firearm cases, each tagged.
The pawnshop will take any legal guns so long as they aren’t a Class III firearm, which includes weapons like machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns and grenade launchers.
When weapons are checked into the gun storage program, they are put through a safety test, then tagged for identification purposes.
The checked-in weapons are secured in a designated area of the building and are accessible only by managers, like Dombrique, who are trained to handle firearms.
Checking out stored guns also involves a routine filled with precautionary steps and resembles the process of buying a firearm in Nevada. It can only be done during the store’s regular business hours.
The call for gun regulation is again in the spotlight after recent mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., and a week later at a school in Uvalde, Texas. As conversations evolve on responsible ownership, Dombrique hopes the pawnshop becomes one solution for the local community.
“Seeing everything that’s going on in the media, we just wanna put (our gun safety storage program) out there and let people know,” he said.