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Great Falls gun shop owner believes federal agents have him targeted

Tom VanHoose, owner of Highwood Creek Outfitters
Posted at 7:48 AM, Jun 16, 2023

GREAT FALLS — A Great Falls gun shop owner says he was targeted by federal agents Wednesday. In fact, he believes he's been in the crosshairs of the government for a couple of years now.

“At 7:30, I came in and they pulled in behind me with 20 heavily armed agents,” said Tom Van Hoose, the owner of Highwood Creek Outfitters.

Van Hoose says for two years his Highwood Creek Outfitters gun shop has been the subject of surveillance by state and federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the State of Montana, and now the Internal Revenue Service.

“The fact that they think we make so much money as a gun business that they had to come investigate all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars whatever it is we supposedly absconded with, anybody that knows the margins in the gun business knows they’re not that high,” said Van Hoose.

Van Hoose says all he was told is that his business had been reported. He doesn’t know by who. He thinks it’s part of a nationwide pattern and feels it’s political.

“I can only assume that it’s because of the style of weapons that we have and the press that’s so against them,” said Van Hoose. “The current administration seems to be hell-bent on getting those guns out of the hands of average Americans.”

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Van Hoose says the agents were cordial and professional but still felt invaded and now has lost nearly a whole day's revenue.

“I got 30 minutes of operating time in and made one $16 sale,” said Van Hoose.

Van Hoose says his shop has a good relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was also present. He says because his shop carries “fun guns” like AR-15's and AK-47s their level of licensing draws more scrutiny.

“We have a reputation of dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's because there's so much legal fun to be had,” said Van Hoose. “It's just not worth doing things that are going to get you in trouble.”

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says there is no law stating that the sheriff must be notified prior to any such investigation by federal agents.

The Great Falls Police Department was notified of the investigation and provided security.

An IRS spokesperson confirmed to MTN News that the agency was at Highwood Creek Outfitters on official business, but declined to provide any details.