A Wake County orthodontist with offices in Raleigh and Wake Forest made international news earlier this month when he gave away Glock 19 handguns to patients getting Invisalign teeth-straightening treatments.
On Nov. 8 and 9, Dr. Jason Gladwell of Gladwell Orthodontics ran a “Grins and Glocks” promotion. The Glock 19 retails for more than $500 and getting Invisalign can cost patients more than $3,000.
“Instead of them paying for it, I’m paying for it,” Gladwell told WRAL. “Anytime you talk about firearms, it can be a polarizing subject.”
While calling firearms “a polarizing subject” is a bit of an understatement, that has certainly been the case with the promotion. So much so that the company behind Invisalign, Align Technology, has made it clear they had nothing to do with the gun giveaway.
“Invisalign-trained doctors are independent practices and Align was not involved in the development or approval of this promotion by the dental practice, and only learned of it after the fact,” the company said in a statement provided to WRAL. “For more than 25 years, Align has been helping doctors transform smiles and change lives through healthy beautiful smiles using Invisalign aligners, and this promotion does not reflect our brand purpose.”
As part of the promotion, patients not interested in getting a free handgun were instead able to opt for a free membership at Youngsville Gun Club & Range.
Giving away handguns to patients in exchange for getting invisible braces raises some legal questions for most people. WRAL spoke with attorneys and federal agencies about the deal.
“The concern here is that we’re not having firearms transferred to folks who do not qualify to possess them. This could be folks with criminal histories, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse issues, restraining orders against them – or in the case of a handgun – under the age of 21,” Gastonia-based attorney Ron Shook said.
Despite that, the giveaway is legal.
“Guns are like other property. You can buy and sell and dispose of them. But the distinction is guns are potentially inherently dangerous. So, there is regulation surrounding the transfer of firearms,” Shook explained.
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) spokesperson told WRAL, “Usually these transactions are coordinated through a licensed firearms dealer to ensure a background check is conducted and the recipient can legally possess a firearm.”
According to the gun club’s owner, Kurt Lieberman, those seeking to claim either incentive need to visit in person. Those over the age of 21 will need to pass an on-site background check to get their free gun, Lieberman told WRAL.
“It’s a process. They have to come, they have to have a valid driver’s license. They have to be a legal citizen, they have to be 21 and older. We do a background check here on-site. That has to come back approved. They have to fill out all the paperwork,” Lieberman explained.
Although the club will recommend recipients take a training class, it won’t be required, Lieberman added.
In defense of giving away lethal weaponry to Invisalign patients, Gladwell said the promotion wasn’t intended for all of his patients.
“Not everyone that comes into our office is going to be eligible. It’s not marketed to everyone. It is solely designed and marketed for the Youngsville Gun Club and Range,” he said. “The promotion is non-transferable. The person who actually gets started with the Invisalign treatment has to actually be the eligible person.”
Despite its legality, patients and others in the community expressed shock and concern over the promotion.
Jennifer Copeland, the executive director of the NC Council of Churches told WRAL she was speechless when she heard of the promotion.
“They’re giving away guns that are going to be lodged in a house somewhere, and will potentially create gun violence and gun death,” Copeland said. “It’s mind-blowing to me, that an organization that I think of as trying to provide health care to the people in the community is partnering their health care with gun death.”
Copeland said she was at least glad to hear that the giveaway would be subject to the state’s gun laws, as weak as they may be.
“I’m pleased that they’re going to follow the minimalist gun laws that we have in North Carolina. Let’s be clear, they’re very minimal in North Carolina, but at least they are going to follow those,” she said.
Gladwell told WRAL that he doesn’t just give away firearms to patients, his office has previously partnered with other local businesses not involved in the firearms industry.
“We would love if people could pay attention to some of our other charitable donations and campaigns,” he said.
Because the giveaway was operated within the bounds of the state’s gun laws, it appears that Gladwell and his practice will not bear any legal responsibility if a tragedy occurs and one of his patients or their family member gets wounded or killed with the handgun he gifted them.