Facing potential legal action, Prince William Co. board approves previously rejected home gun business

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday approved an application for a home gun business in Potomac Shores that was previously rejected in September.

The reconsideration came after the applicant pushed for another hearing and threatened to sue the county.

Robert and Michelle Dawson will now be permitted to sell guns online and provide in-person background checks, with walk-in customers by appointment only at their Cockspur Lane home.

The family’s application was backed by the board’s three Republicans, Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir, Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega and Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, as well as Democratic Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry, who bucked his party on the vote.

Chair Ann Wheeler, Potomac Supervisor Andrea Bailey and Woodbridge Supervisor Angela Franklin — all Democrats in the majority — opposed the application. Democratic Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye, who previously rejected the application, stepped outside of the board chambers prior to the public hearing and did not cast a vote, allowing the measure to pass 4-3.

Boddye did not return an email seeking comment as to why he did not vote.

The Dawson family’s application originally failed Sept. 26 despite a nearly identical home gun store proposal near Manassas being approved during the same meeting. Democrats Wheeler, Bailey and Franklin opposed the Manassas application, while other members of their party backed it, including Angry and Boddye.

The Potomac Shores business was initially rejected after Boddye, who supported the Manassas store, opposed Dawson’s application, which he said was in response to resident concerns voiced during the public hearing and the home’s proximity to schools.

Dawson said he felt like the board unfairly singled out his application, and he took steps to challenge the ruling he called “capricious,” suggesting to county officials he had plans to pursue legal action against the board. Several similar home gun stores have been approved in the county in recent years.

“As a 20+ year resident of the County I would respectfully ask that you work with the Board to have a motion for reconsideration of my [application] entered at the next Board meeting and that you would implore the Board to reconsider their vote in light of the information I have provided and save the County further action and costs,” Dawson said in an email to County Executive Christopher Shorter.

Seeking legal counsel, the board in closed session on Oct. 10 discussed Dawson’s then-failed application and reported to the public afterward they would reconsider it.

Angry, reading prepared remarks on Tuesday, maintained that Dawson’s application was primarily a land-use case — not one focused on firearms — and should be decided as such. He indicated state law necessitates that the board approve the business.

“The General Assembly has limited the board’s authority to regulate firearms,” Angry said. “Again, gun violence is a critically important issue that this country must address. However, it needs to be addressed at the state and federal level, not in the context of a single county resident’s request for a lawful home-based business.”

Several Potomac Shores residents spoke at the hearing in opposition to the inclusion of a home gun business in their neighborhood, especially at a time when violent crime is on the rise in Prince William County. At the request of Bailey and Franklin, Dawson previously held a town hall with neighbors to assuage them.

Bailey, who represents Potomac Shores, urged Dawson to continue to cooperate with the community to make them more comfortable with his business. In opposing the application, Franklin said she wished Dawson would have pursued a brick-and-mortar location for the business rather than placing it in a residential neighborhood.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up