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Kenai gun shop owner charged with selling firearms without license

The former location of Gator Guns in Kenai.
Riley Board
The former location of Gator Guns in Kenai.

A Kenai gun shop owner is charged with selling firearms after having his license revoked more than two years ago.

In two criminal complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for Alaska, prosecutors say the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revoked Gator Guns owner Aaron Horwath’s license to sell firearms in 2019 because of “willful violations of federal firearms laws and regulations.” The documents describe 321 guns sold without being appropriately recorded.

But Horwath continued to sell firearms for years after his license was revoked and failed to conduct background checks during gun sales, according to the charges.

A grand jury indicted Horwath in August for allegedly dealing firearms without a license. In a separate court filing earlier this month, prosecutors moved to have 189 firearms from Gator Guns forfeited to the federal government after they were seized during the execution of a search warrant in May.

According to the charges, the ATF learned Horwath had reopened Gator Guns and was selling firearms as of fall 2020. Agents conducted surveillance for the next year and a half, observing activity at Gator Guns that indicated it was still in operation, including that an “open” sign was displayed near the door.

The charges say, in a series of undercover visits to the shop starting in December of 2022, agents posing as gun buyers purchased firearms from Horwath, who failed to conduct background checks as required by federal law on each of the three occasions.

Horwath told the agents he was in the process of selling off inventory and would be closing up shop within the year.

The ATF returned in May, this time with a search warrant, and seized 189 guns.

ATF spokesman Jason Chudy said the investigation took a long time due to a variety of factors, including the long distance between the ATF field office in Anchorage and the location of the shop in Kenai. Chudy said agents are still working to figure out exactly how many firearms Gator Guns sold illegally, but he said the number is in the hundreds.

The U.S Attorney’s Office in Anchorage declined an interview, saying their policy is not to comment on open cases.

The shop is now listed as permanently closed online and no longer has a sign identifying it as Gator Guns.

Horwath’s next appearance is set for Oct. 30.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.