Arlington gun shop opening met with fanfare, opposition

ARLINGTON, Va. — Lyon Park’s newest gun shop Nova Park Armory was crammed with customers and supporters within the first few hours of its opening Saturday.  They squeezed their way through the store wearing bright orange stickers that said “guns save lives.”

“It’s packed,” owner Dennis Pratte said, with a chuckle. “This is great. The turnout has been fabulous. It was more than we expected.”

Opponents of the Nova Park Armory's opening in Arlington, Virginia's Lyon Park neighborhood held a counter rally blocks from the controversial gun shop on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Opponents of the Nova Park Armory’s opening in Arlington, Virginia’s Lyon Park neighborhood held a counter rally blocks from the controversial gun shop on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)

Nova Park Armory’s opening on Saturday  is the latest development in a string of clashes between shop owners and residents who say the gun shop should be located somewhere else. Nova Park Armory is located on North Pershing Drive, across the street from a daycare and near an elementary school. An online petition to stop the business from setting up in the Arlington neighborhood was started shortly after plans for the shop became public.

“It’s not that we don’t agree with the Second Amendment,” Celia Slater of Act4LyonPark, a neighborhood group opposed to the new firearm shop. “It’s just that we don’t think that a neighborhood should have a neighbor that is selling something like this.”

On Saturday, Slater, several Arlington politicians and neighbors gathered at a park down the street from the gun store to rally against its opening. A few Arlington County police officers were posted at the gun shop and at the park as a precaution.

“It’s an issue of feeling secure,” Virginia Del. Alfonso Lopez said. “It’s an issue of feeling safe. It’s also a financial issue, in terms of the value of homes and the idea that your property values may go down.”

Supporters pack Nova Park Armory gun shop during it's opening in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)
Supporters pack Nova Park Armory gun shop during it’s opening in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (WTOP/Dennis Foley)

Back at the gun shop, Prince William County Delegate Rich Anderson was among the politicians who made the trip to show support.

“I came out because I had read all the publicity about the opening and decided I wanted to come up,” Anderson said.

He said that he has been considering buying a handgun for personal protection but said he did not plan to buy one at the grand opening.

Along with other politicians, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony, speaking highly of the newest retail outlet in the county.

Nova Armory’s owner says the shop is just supplying a demand.

“The Second Amendment is not just about hunting. It’s about personal protection, self-preservation,” Pratte said. “We provide a needed service to people who take that seriously.”

And although Nova Armory just opened, Pratte is already looking at his next possible location.

“We’d like to open a place in D.C.,” said Pratte. “If there’s any landlords that want to give it shot, give me a call.”

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