The debate over a gun store that’s opening in Cherrydale shows no sign of stopping as concerned residents and County Board candidates face off against the National Rifle Association and gun rights supporters.
On one side is a Change.org petition, started by a local resident, which has already amassed more than 2,400 signers who are urging the store’s landlord, Kostas Kapasouris, to cancel its lease. There’s also now a “Cherrydale Gun Store Opposition” Facebook page, which counts all six Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board as being opposed to the store.
On the other side is the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which has started its own petition in support of the gun store. The NRA-ILA has also produced a video (above) and an article, calling residents who oppose the store “bigots” who are “ignorant” and employing “bullying tactics.”
“To the intolerant residents of Cherrydale who are raising a fuss, we thank you for portraying for the rest of the country the unreasonable and small-minded attitudes that permeate anti-gun culture,” the NRA article says. “It certainly is a telling display you’re putting on for everyone else. Nevertheless, were you to decide to put down your pitchforks and torches and sample the wares from NOVA Firearms, we would welcome you into the fold of gun owners without judgment or reservation.”
The petition against the gun store says it represents the true voice of the community. It lists a phone number for NOVA Firearms and encourages those who oppose it to “call and voice your view.”
“We have 2,350+ supporters of the petition, and more than 80% are from Arlington,” the petition says. “Support for this petition shows our community does not believe a gun shop is the right fit for the former Curves location in Cherrydale. Opposition has formed to our petition, but I wonder if they can claim 80% are from our community?”
Despite the opposition, and reports that Kapasouris may be trying to break the lease, NOVA Firearms says it’s still planning on opening later this summer.
(Kapasouris could not be reached for comment.)
Rachel Dresser, co-owner of the McLean-based store, said they have not heard from Kapasouris recently and have received no documents indicating that their lease is being canceled. She said the store has been working with the community to find some sort of a compromise, but they’ve invested too much in the new store to back out now.
“At this point we’re trying to move forward, but the community really wants us to leave but that’s not an option given the money we’ve already invested,” she said. “It’s not an ATM, I can’t just say cash out and move somewhere else. We did not expect this level of resistance so we’re really just trying to work with the community and take things one day at a time.”
Dresser said she and her business partner, Marine Corps veteran James Gates, met with residents on Sunday, but have yet to hear any proposals for things the store can do to address resident concerns. She said she regrets that other stores in the small shopping center they’re opening in may be feeling negative effects of the brouhaha — they initially believed that opening in the long-vacant storefront would have only benefited neighboring stores.
“We want to have a middle ground,” she said. “We don’t want to hurt the businesses around us, that’s not our goal. Our intention was to help them by bringing in more business from around the area. Hopefully this can be resolved in a way that works out for all of us.”
Dresser said NOVA Firearms decided to open in Arlington due to demand from their customers, many of whom are military and law enforcement personnel buying weapons for themselves.
“A lot of people who purchase from us are Arlington and Alexandria residents, that’s why we’re moving into the area,” she said. “We wanted more space and our customers were asking for us to be closer to them. They would come to us regardless.”
Barring a setback with the lease, Dresser said the store is planning on opening its doors in August.