A Marines Corps veteran dreamed of expanding his NOVA Firearms gun shop business in Virginia this summer.
After securing a five-year lease at a former Curves gym in a strip mall in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, James Gates encountered push-back from local resident Susan Newton.
She organized a petition with over 2,300 signatures demanding that the property landlord back out of the lease because the gun store is within two blocks of an elementary school.
“Our landlord is trying to find a way to legally break the lease,” Gates told a D.C.-based radio station. “I’m hoping we have convinced him to give us a chance.”
Gates plans to meet with members of the community and is hoping to address their concerns about his business.
“Most of the concerns from the petitions I have read, is that they are worried about the kids seeing guns on the walls as they walk by our shop to the local 7-Eleven. If that’s the only concern, I can assure everybody that won’t be an issue,” he told WMAL’s “Drive at Five” radio show.
Gates is willing to find compromises such as “tinting the windows” of the gun shop to make it hard for children to look into the store.
When the store opens this summer, the veteran is supportive of free speech and is willing to provide protesters water on hot days.
“We have the right to legally sell firearms and they can legally protest. We want to be a part of the community. I am willing to find a common ground to make everybody happy,” Gates told radio host Larry O’Connor last week.
Children are not allowed in the gun store without the company of an adult in his McLean, Virginia location and the same rule will apply to his new store in Arlington.
“We do have some customers who come in with their young children. We supplied some rifles to the local Boy Scouts troops so they can learn how to shoot safely. They can’t handle anything. If they are not with a parent or guardian, they are not allowed in the store. They certainly are not allowed to handle firearms even if they are with their guardian,” the gun shop owner said.
He told WMAL that he feels bad for the other businesses in the strip mall being harassed with threats of boycotts.
“I feel bad that they are going to suffer and I hope they don’t. I hope it blows over. I don’t think it’s right that they are going to boycott another legal business,” Gates said.