How does the largest seller of weapons in the US after the mass executions
“America’s Most Armed Man” Mel Bernstein built a business empire with his arsenal and military museum, but it cost him his personal life and family.
In February, 2018, at school in South Florida, 19-year-old student Nicholas Cruz shot 17 and Wounded 14 Man. This story caused a great resonance in the United States and once again raised the topic of the free sale of weapons in the country. The public and the survivors of the attack are in favor of reforms and restrictions, and President Donald Trump proposes giving weapons to the teachers for protection.
This story directly concerns Mel Bernstein, better known as The Dragon Man (Dragonman). For many years, he owns one of the largest weapons stores "Dragon Weapons" in Colorado and a personal museum, where he keeps equipment, weapons and clothing from the Second World War to the present day. Bernstein is considered a local star and a responsive person, but along with fame and business, he has to bear the heavy burden of family tragedies. The story of the "Dragon Man" tells TJournal with reference to the GQ edition.
Bernstein is 72 of the year, but sometimes he behaves 60 years younger, blasting everything at a shooting range and joking with clients. He never goes on vacation and works late. “I wanted to create a business, I worked hard, I earned money to grow, grow and grow. This is what happens, ”says the American.
On the community page on Facebook, "The Dragon Man" indicates that he specializes in selling military rifles, pistols, shotguns and machine guns. For himself, he likes to call his product easier - “Weapons for hunting people.” When a buyer enters the Dragon Weapon store, Bernstein or his daughter Melissa find themselves in a difficult position. They decide whether a weapon, butt, flamethrower, or a lot of other items used by the attackers during the massacres can be sold to the client.
Against the background of the shooting in Florida, the largest US weapons companies Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods Increased implementation age limit from 18 to 21. A few years before this, the holdings had stopped selling the AR-15 rifle - this is one of the most popular models in the country, which the arrows often used during the massacres.
In the US, the number of gun shops exceeds the number of all Starbucks, McDonald's and grocery stores combined.
There are no restrictions in Bernstein’s shop - sellers themselves decide on the appearance and behavior of the buyer whether he should sell the weapon. The Dragon Man himself explains it this way - he is not responsible for how people take advantage of the purchase, just as the cigarette company does not control the frequency of consumption of customers' cigarettes.
“Yes, I sleep well,” says the arms dealer when asked about risks. He does not care that he can sell the goods to the future arrow. His business does not stop after another tragedy in schools or on the streets: a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an Uzi submachine gun, a TEC-DC9 self-loading pistol - all this and much more continues to disappear from the shelves every day.
Shooting ranges, museum and Zyklon B
Bernstein's store is located in the east of Colorado Springs, but in front of him passing by will probably notice a strange dump of cars. Many of the cars are riddled with bullets and look burnt in places, and dummies are scattered inside and nearby. This is also the property of the “most armed man in America” and his personal shooting range.
A little further the store is located the second attraction of Bernstein - a giant hangar, turned into a military museum. Inside there are about 900 mannequins and separate rooms for each large country that fought with the USA. Here is the department of British weapons, Russian, and here the hangar of the Third Reich: everywhere there are figures with a swastika and Adolf Hitler. In the corner of the room is an ominous reminder of the Holocaust - a canister with the pesticide "Cyclone B", which the Nazis used in the gas chambers.
“I have Auschwitz soap made from human fat, a Jewish prison form, and a Buchenwald bread basket,” says Bernstein. He says he collects military items as a sign of respect for the people who died in battle. However, this does not explain why there are several machine guns in the bedroom of the Dragon Man.
In 2016, Bernstein voted in the presidential election for Donald Trump and has since supported him. The arms dealer calls Barack Obama "the worst president in the history of the country" and believes that Hillary Clinton is in prison. He liked the idea of Trump to legalize silencers in the country, although they, as human rights activists believe, can prevent the arrow from being calculated during the massacres.
“Do you know what scares me? Islamic State. If they get to my supplies, they can take over everything, ”says Bernstein. He has seen a lot over the years, but he always managed to avoid big problems. Once a gang of bikers came to the seller and offered a bribe if he sold them weapons without specifying contact details. The Dragon Man advised them to go far away.
In 2001, the Texas Seven allegedly drove into the store, a group of rapists and murderers who escaped from a prison in Texas. They, according to Bernstein, asked to share weapons for raids, but he refused. Not only from the principle, but also based on past experience. According to the American, in 1999, an unknown blonde and one of the Columbine students in Colorado came to him. A month later, he and a friend shot 13 schoolmates and killed himself.
During the interrogation of the FBI, Bernstein said that he had refused to serve dubious customers and gave the agents a record of the conversation with them. Later, a police officer from the local department told the media that the experts did not recognize any of the suspects on the tape.
“They came with a lot of money. This stupid hairstyle, stupid raincoats. It was late afternoon and I almost threw them out of the store. They wanted an MP-5 and an M-60 machine gun. The woman did not know that for this she had to wait 8 months. Imagine if I sold them this? I couldn't believe they had the courage to do something like that. Shoot teachers and children in cold blood. In fact, all teachers need to be armed, ”said Mel Bernstein, owner of the Dragon Weapon shop.
In November, 2015, an 57-year-old Colorado Springs resident, Robert Diar, opened fire at the Family Planning Center. Killed three, 9 people were injured. In December of the same year, two terrorists from the "Islamic State" began shooting people with AR-15 rifles in San Bernardino. 14 people died, 21 injured. In February 2016, the driver Uber in Kalamazoo got out and shot 6 random people.
All these cases are united by one thing - discussing them, the Americans involuntarily recall the experience of the Australian authorities. After the massacre in Port Arthur in 1996, the government bought out and melted more 600 thousands of weapons, and then gradually reduced the number of armed citizens. After about 10 years, the number of mass executions fell to almost zero.
Probably, for some lovers of this story, the work of Bernstein seems harmful and even dangerous. But despite his activities, he is friendly and sociable. His 29-year-old daughter Melissa is at odds with her father and does not support Trump, but continues to work in an arms shop. The girl claims to be very strict with customers.
“Sometimes people come who want to buy Kalashnikov assault rifles. It is immediately obvious that they will acquire them for the cartel and take them with them to Mexico, ”says Melissa. Sometimes the staff of "Dragon Weapons" record suspicious clients on a hidden voice recorder or memorize the car number, so that they can be reported to the police later.
Bernstein has his own way of commemorating the victims of the 11 September 2001 attack: he enters his field and shoots hundreds of machine gun clips, and then blows up several cars at a landfill. At least, it allows you to escape from bad thoughts that the seller began to visit after a personal tragedy.
In 2012, Bernstein’s business grew rapidly, but the more the media wrote about him, the more the American wanted to remain in the spotlight. His second wife, Terry, tried to distract her husband so that he spent more time with his family, but this did not lead to anything. Then, “Dragon Man” was offered his show on television: according to the idea, the whole family would have participated in it, including the eldest daughter Melanie. Terry did not like the idea, but she gave up.
For the screensaver of the show, the "Dragon" family had to go along through clouds of smoke with a weapon. When the recording started, one of the pyrotechnics devices turned out to be faulty and “fired” a smoke bomb towards the heroes. Having sounded alongside Bernstein, the shell went through his wife. Terry died instantly.
Dragon Man has always been the face of the company, but the business was run by a spouse. When she was gone, things went downhill. The company was saved only by the fact that the sale of arms remained one of the most profitable occupations in the USA. Trying to overcome the depression, Bernstein remarried, but soon divorced. Then his father and son died from cancer from a previous marriage.
When the working day ends, an elderly American talks with mannequins in a hangar, watches programs about history on TV: he basically likes World War II and the Vietnam campaign. After the death of his wife, Bernstein almost completely interrupted communication with relatives, the only exception was the younger daughter Melissa.
The American decided that after his death, all weapons, a hangar with tanks, a military museum and company would get his daughter. Unlike his father, Melissa is far from militarism and wants to find a compromise between supporters and opponents of arms reforms. She supports the idea that in order to obtain a license to carry a weapon a person must undergo a mandatory psychological test.
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