Controversy after gun shop opens near Virginia elementary school

- Community resistance is growing after a gun store opened next door to an elementary school in Virginia. The store, NOVA Gun Shop, is adjacent to Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean and some parents are upset because they say it puts kids at an unnecessary risk.

The store owners, however, say that they are complying with the law. Under Virginia state law, the county does not have a right to deny the shop a permit to be in the area. An online petition to close the store has more than 2200 signatures.

Fairfax County Supervisor of the Dranesville District, John W. Foust, spoke with FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick Wednesday in front of the gun shop. Foust was with a group of protestors who gathered at the shop when it opened last week. He said several hundred people organized after hearing about the shop’s opening.

Foust told us that while many oppose the gun shop opening near the school, the business is within their rights to operate at the location. "Unfortunately, the legislation that is passed at the federal level that creates gun free zones makes a lot of exceptions, and this store falls within one of those exceptions," he said.

Foust said the primary concern regarding the issue is school safety. "Ordinarily, you would not have a gun shop within 1000 feet of a school. Our concern is that a lot of law abiding people will be coming here, coming and going with guns. Normally, a gun in a school zone would alert the security but it will be a daily occurrence now," he said. "People are going to be here for all the right reasons, but that one person who comes in and is not here for the right reasons will not get detected the way they would have been otherwise."

Foust said that the decision to place the gun shop so close to the school was made in poor judgment. He says he hopes to work with the gun shop and the landlord over the coming weeks to see if a better location is available.

“I guarantee you it’s going to be very difficult for the community to learn to live with this. So, we are not going to be able to give up,” Foust said. “It’s going to be difficult to find a solution. It will take cooperation from the landlord and the tenant. We've got to try to get that cooperation because it is just not acceptable to have this gun shop this close to Franklin Sherman Elementary School.”

Alnwick also spoke with James Gates, the owner of NOVA Gun Shop. Gates told her that the shop has been in business since 2009 and that their previous location was just about a quarter mile from the school.

Gates said that the store moved to McLean after an earlier attempt to move to Arlington, Va. was met strong resistance from the community. He also said that the store also uses some of its space for firearm education and training

“The firearms industry is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.,” he told FOX 5. “Everything were do here is by the book. We can't cut any corners; we can't do any shady deals here. We're under the microscope - and even under the microscope even more now because all of the controversy here now.”

“Our customers know when they leave our property they could possibly be in a school zone. If they don't have a concealed carry permit they cannot open carry. They know the rules and we tell them as they leave.”

The gun shop has also started their own petition for support. So far 991 supporters have signed.

As far as a possible compromise or relocation, Gates said that no one from the county has contacted their business.

Watch the FOX 5 report from the protest:: http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/25329652-story

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