Buying a gun at a pawn shop isn't as easy as you may think.

You can't just walk in, plop a wad of bills on the counter and leave a couple minutes later with a handgun.

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Alexandria's two pawn shops, Viking Pawn and Alex Pawn, are federally licensed gun dealers and have the same precautions in place as any gun store.

For starters, customers must have a valid state ID and a permit to buy or carry a handgun.

The buyers and the sellers must complete a three-page form, a Firearms Transaction Record.

Buyers have to answer a series of questions regarding their criminal history, drug use, military service, citizenship, domestic violence convictions, mental deficiencies and more.

If they lie on the form, the consequences are steep - up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The pawn shops complete the form and maintain a record of the transaction by recording the type of firearm, model, caliber, serial number and identification provided by the buyer.

The shops process applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS.

It checks to see if the buyer's name and birth year match those of a person who is not eligible to buy a firearm.

Sometimes the check takes only 10 or 15 minutes but the FBI has up to three business days to determine if the sale should proceed.

The NICS check results in one of three outcomes - proceed, delayed or denied.

"There are precautions in place," said Dan Tillberg, owner of Viking Pawn. "Everything we do is no different than a gun store selling new or used guns."

Buyers must be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun and at least 18 to buy a semi-automatic rifle.

Buyers can't have a crime of violence on their record, including a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. They also can't have prior convictions involving drugs, gang-related crimes or other criminal activity within the past three years.

Buyers can't be committed to a treatment facility as mentally ill, developmentally disabled, mentally defective or mentally ill and dangerous to the public.

They can't be fugitives from justice, illegal aliens, or dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.

In addition to the forms and background checks, pawn shop dealers also have security measures in place to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands.

Back in September 2014, both pawn shops in Alexandria were broken into and guns were stolen. The suspects were arrested a short time later and nearly all the weapons were recovered.

It was the only break-in at Viking Pawn in at least 25 years, said Tillman.

"There are more break-ins in houses than in businesses like ours," he said.

Since that incident, Viking Pawn has beefed up its security measures, said Tillberg. Without giving away too many details, he noted that several cameras are in place and every entry is covered.

A steel cable runs through rifles on display and each one is secured with a gun lock. Handguns are stored in a locked cabinet.

Alexandria Pawn also locks down its guns at night and has an alarm system and other security measures, according to owner Rich Wielenberg, who has been in the pawn shop business for 16 years.

"The handguns are locked in a safe location," he said.