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Ex-NH man sold guns to Vegas killer

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 04. 2017 10:09PM
Chris Sullivan, owner of Guns & Guitars in Mesquite, Nev. (COURTESY)

Former Keene resident Christopher M. Sullivan may never get out of his head the now-eerie but at the time very ordinary encounter he had with Las Vegas mass killer Stephen Paddock at his Mesquite, Nev., gun store last Thursday.

Sullivan, who co-owns Guns & Guitars Inc., sold Paddock a bolt-action hunting rifle. It was not one of the 23 weapons seized from the 32nd-floor suite of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where Paddock last Sunday night fired for more than 11 minutes, killing at least 58 and wounding 527 at a country music festival. (Related story, Page B2.)

“I interacted with him that afternoon (Thursday). He walked across the street to do some shopping in Walmart, then came back to get the rifle,” Sullivan, 42, said during a telephone interview on Wednesday.

“I can honestly tell you it tears me apart inside. It has not been an easy thing to deal with emotionally and mentally on my side.”

Sullivan, who co-owns the store with his father and stepmother, sold Paddock a total of five guns over the past year,

Sullivan said the store did not sell the 64-year-old any of the bump stock or semi-automatic guns that Paddock used to carry out his murderous rampage.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary, Steve was a well-spoken, well-mannered, very well-behaved person,” Sullivan recalled. “We are trained here to look for signs and red flags. He didn’t exhibit any of those that make us hesitate to sell him a firearm. We are here to protect the community and wouldn’t hesitate to turn him down if there had been any cause to, but there wasn’t.”

Sullivan said he got a call Monday at 4 a.m. from law enforcement asking for help in locating records of any gun purchases Paddock had made from his store.

“Unfortunately for us in this business, like any other, you can’t control what someone is going to do after they walk out of that door,” Sullivan said.

“It is a horrible thing. There are many gun stores in this country that have gone through what we are going through. Some people have less of a soul and don’t care much, We aren’t those people, we are very hurt by this and disturbed by it.”

Sullivan said he came to New Hampshire in 1995. He lived in Keene for a decade, and then lived in the nearby suburb of Sullivan for another decade. He moved to Mesquite in 2015 to help his father run the store.

He spent seven years running the gun department at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Keene and 10 years as a salesman for Rountree Ford, which is now Monadnock Ford in Swanzey. He also worked as a bartender at Kilkenny Pub in Keene.

And 23 days ago, Sullivan married a woman he met in Keene many years before they began a romantic relationship.

“New Hampshire still holds our heart and we come back as often as we can,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the outpouring of support from citizens and the business community in his community of 20,000 has been gratifying.

“They know we are normal people and are involved in the community,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t change the fact we are going to feel this pain for a while.

“We as a family and a business, we are mourning for all the people murdered down there and all the families involved. We love our community and don’t think this one man defines us.”

Sullivan said he’s a big supporter of the Second Amendment but would not oppose legislation to outlaw the equipment that is used to change a semi-automatic gun’s rate of fire to that of a machine gun.

Walmart and Cabella’s took the online sale of bump stocks offline Wednesday.

“I think that is probably a smart choice for them,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a legal thing to purchase; the federal government knows that, but you may see that change now.”; Union Leader Staff Writer Mark Hayward contributed to this report.

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