New gun shop sparks protests in McLean

McLean, Va. — Demonstrators on both sides of the gun issue spent time Saturday waving signs and arguing their points of view in front of a gun store located near an elementary school in McLean.

Gun right supporters stage a counter-protest near NOVA Firearms on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. The gun shop is near an elementary school in McLean, Va., which some residents say is unsafe. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
Gun right supporters stage a counter-protest near NOVA Firearms on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. The gun shop is near an elementary school in McLean, Va., which some residents say is unsafe. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Two-year-old shop NOVA Firearms recently moved to its new location near Franklin Sherman Elementary School.

“A school zone is not where a gun store should be,” says Kris Gregory, a McLean resident.

The shop is on busy Chain Bridge Road, across the street from McLean Pharmacy, next door to the McLean Automotive Service Center.

“We are in an impossible situation. You can see the school backdoor right there beyond the cars,” Gregory says.

Legislation was introduced in the General Assembly in Richmond that would allow counties the right to ban gun stores from within 1,000 feet of a school.

“We think it’s a matter of public safety, with Virginia’s open carry laws we shouldn’t have people carrying guns around schools,” says Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, who joined the demonstrators.

Foust represents the Dranesville District, which includes McLean.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT and so the safety of the community is obviously a concern of mine. If I thought that we were a danger, if I thought that we presented any threat whatsoever, I certainly wouldn’t be working here,” says Erik Lorentzen, manager of NOVA Firearms.

On Saturday, the number of demonstrators demanding that the gun store move, about several dozen, was matched by the number of gun rights supporters and customers of the store who provided a counter-protest.

There is no shooting range at the store, and guns are never discharged on the premises according to Lorentzen.

“There’s no risk of a stray bullet flying over and hitting the school,” Lorentzen says.

Not everyone agrees.

“This is not a safe place for a gun shop,” Gregory says.

“The school resource officer can’t tell if someone means harm or is just going from the store to his or her car,” she says.

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