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The Siege Of Nova Firearms

The Siege Of Nova Firearms

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran who wants to open a gun store in Arlington, Va.—just outside Washington, D.C.—is now under fire from some neighbors who have started an online petition to stop him. 

James Gates, 28, who owns and operates NOVA Firearms, a gun store about two miles from CIA’s Langley headquarters, wants to open a second store in North Arlington, about three miles south of his current shop.

But now, an online petition at Change.org started by Susan Newton, a local resident, seeks to stop Gates from opening the gun store. The petition calls on the property owner, Kostas Kapasouris, to breach the five-year lease he signed with Gates and his business partner, Rachel Dresser.

Dresser, 27, and Gates met when they both worked at Buffalo Wild Wings, and together, they got a Federal Firearms License and bought NOVA Firearms last year.The petition now has 2,410 “supporters,” but that is a misleading number.

Now Gates uses his Marine Corps security forces expertise to teach courses on gun safety and advise customers on the firearms he sells, while Dresser keeps the books for the business. One reason they want to move is to have more space to offer more classes.

The former Curves Fitness location, in a strip mall with a nail salon and a flower shop, looked like a good fit. Gates and Dresser figured they could expand their inventory,  increase the number of classes and students they could train, and grow their business, whose clientele consists largely of local, federal and state law-enforcement personnel. NOVA Firearms is a Class 1 and Class 3 NFA dealer.

But now, after signing the lease, after all the planning and lawyers and paperwork and construction, NOVA Firearms is under attack by busybodies who don’t know—or won’t acknowledge—what’s good for them. 

Newton, who started the online petition, didn’t go directly to Gates and Dresser with her concerns. Instead, she waged her war through mouse clicks. “They never came to us,” Gates said. “We heard about it on a Listserv.”

The petition now has 2,410 “supporters,” but that is a misleading number. Many are from people who signed it just so they could have access to post comments saying how wrong, needless and counterproductive the petition is.

Now that the petition has drawn both local news and national attention, anti-gunners from across the country—many from nowhere near the neighborhood—are jumping on board. Arlington has a consistently liberal voting history, with 69.2 percent voting for Obama in 2012, according to the Washington Times.

Jane Winter, who works at the flower shop next door to the vacant storefront, told NBC-4: “People come here for beauty, people come here for peace, they come here for a meal, and I don’t necessarily feel that people coming here for a gun is what we want. If you want to open a gun shop, do it elsewhere.”

An opposing petition, calling on the landlord to honor the lease and allow NOVA Firearms to open a store in the strip mall, currently has 2,452 supporters.

“I feel bad for the landlord, because he’s getting it from both sides,” Gates said. If he breaks the lease, he’s in breach of contract. But if he honors the lease, he has to listen to the flack.But as Gates points out, there’s already a gun store in the area—a pawnshop five blocks from the planned location that’s been in business for 30 years. “That’s older than me,” Gates said. But there are no online petitions or Listserv firestorms to shut them down. 

According to Dresser, the landlord signed the five-year lease back in March. Gates said they’ve paid their June rent, and they’ve scheduled their grand opening for August.

But now, in addition, the young entrepreneurs are forced to deal with this.

“The whole situation has been so frazzling,” Dresser said. “Demoralizing.” The irony is that it’s all for no good reason. 

Susan Newton’s petition complains, “It is unconscionable, in an era where our children are forced to practice ‘lock down’ drills designed to train them how to protect themselves from armed intruders, to locate a gun shop anywhere in the vicinity of schools. The fear of armed intruders permeates their education, and placing a shop that sells guns and/or ammunition within immediate distance of schools is confusing to students at best, and sparks fears of access to them at school at worst.”

But as Gates points out, there’s already a gun store in the area—a pawnshop five blocks from the planned location that’s been in business for 30 years. “That’s older than me,” Gates said. But there are no online petitions or Listserv firestorms to shut them down. 

And not that there’s anything wrong with it, but children won’t see guns in the window, anyway, as the petition-signers seem to fear. Gates says the guns will be in back, behind counters, and locked up. Minors aren’t allowed to handle the firearms. In fact, no one under age 17 is allowed in without adult supervision.

“I’d be more than willing to tint the windows, if they wanted me to,” Gates said. 

But then, you know what they’d say: What are they hiding?

In a neighborhood just a stone’s throw from where five CIA employees were shot by an Islamic terrorist while sitting in their cars in the left-turn lane into Langley in 1993—and where so many residents are federal workers guarded by daily armed security—it’s especially ironic that many would oppose the idea of law-abiding and law-enforcing good guys being armed.

Jane Winter, of the strip-mall flower shop, told NBC-4: “A lot of people have come in to say goodbye to us. They said they’re just not going to shop here and patronize a block that has a gun shop.”

Whether or not Arlington’s pampered and privileged seek out new flower shops and manicurists, so they can turn up their noses to NOVA Firearms, remains to be seen. What’s certain is that Gates’ gun store—and the largely law-enforcement clientele it draws—will make those stores, their customers and the surrounding community safer.

How can that be bad?

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