Press Club

Nova Armory in Lyon Park

Update at 5:00 p.m. — A copy of the lawsuit can be downloaded here.

Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory is suing 64 people who spoke out against its recent opening, including local residents and lawmakers.

Nova Armory claims that opponents “conspired to destroy the business, harassed the owner and landlord and mailed death threats,” reports the Washington Post. The business is suing the 64 people in Richmond Circuit Court, seeking $2.1 million for “lost revenue and damages.”

The lawsuit makes good on threats the store made in March.

“The actions of these local crazies against our business is approaching the level of ‘tortious interference,'” the store said in a press release at the time.

Among those reportedly being sued are the seven state lawmakers who signed a letter of opposition to the store’s landlord, plus County Board member Christian Dorsey and School Board member Barbara Kanninen.

“We’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority,” the March press release said.

The Lyon Park Citizens Association tells ARLnow.com that neither it nor its attorney is aware of any legal action against the civic association, which held meetings and votes in response to residents’ concerns about the store.

This morning, before news of the lawsuit was confirmed, John Goldener, president of the civic association, called any such action “a flagrant abuse of the legal system.”

“Our focus is and has always been communication and community,” Goldener said. “If Mr. Pratte’s focus, however, is on generating frivolous lawsuits to frighten residents and artificial controversy to drive sales, then we have grossly misjudged his intentions and stated commitment to become a part of our community.”

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NOVA Armory, the controversial planned gun store in Lyon Park, says it will hold a grand opening at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 26.

The store, at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, says it has all applicable permits needed to open. The grand opening will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony with “several VIPs,” the store’s website says.

The Lyon Park Citizens Association, however, is still discussing the store and has planned a membership vote on whether the association should take an official stance on NOVA Armory. It’s unclear what stance the association would take, though many residents have expressed concerns about the store and its proximity to a nearby preschool.

John Goldener, president of the civic association, confirmed the vote was to take place at some point this week. It comes after NOVA Armory, in a press release issued Friday, threatened to sue opponents and “local crazies.”

“The Association will not… respond favorably to any threats to our residents or to free speech in our meetings, our online forums, or on individual members’ social media pages, as appeared in NOVA Armory’s own March 4 press release to this and other media outlets,” Goldener said Monday. “We assume that the business owner is a proud and responsible gun owner, as are many residents of Lyon Park and members of the LPCA. He should understand better than most that the Constitution is not a buffet, and your cannot infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment rights in order to defend those in the Second.”

“We remain wholly committed to productive and constructive dialogue on this any any other issue of interest or concern to our residents,” Goldener added.

On Friday NOVA Armory said on its website — in a post that has since been removed — that is cancelled a planned private meeting with the citizens association and would only meet with residents at the store. Since then, the stance of NOVA Armory’s owner appears to have softened a bit.

“Dennis Pratte and I have been in touch today, and we are working together to find a new time for him to meet with the Association,” Goldener told ARLnow.com Tuesday.

Pratte, meanwhile says his business is legal and wants Lyon Park residents to stop by the store to clear up “misinformation floating around the internet” before voting.

“NOVA Armory’s application for zoning was approved and all the inspections were passed by the county,” Pratte wrote. “The business received an occupancy permit. And, every inspector, and every law enforcement official that has visited the shop has left confident knowing that they have met all the requirements to operate this business, and to operate it safely from this location. So, before the committee votes, I would hope they take this information into account, or at least stop by the business before casting their vote so they can make an informed decision.”

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The County Board last night unanimously approved consideration of a new ordinance that would effectively ban carrying firearms on county-owned property.

The move is the first step towards making the ordinance part of county policy, though it will still need to undergo a public hearing and a vote at the Board’s next meeting.

According to a staff report:

The proposed ordinance would restrict the possession, carrying or transportation of any firearms on specified locality property. Buildings and other property will be posted to notify the public of the restrictions. The proposed ordinance provides for a Class 1 Misdemeanor penalty for violations.

The ordinance would ban carrying or transporting firearms in buildings owned, leased or used by the County as well as in parks, recreational or community facilities owned or used by the County. Staff clarified that in buildings only partially used by the County, the restriction would be in effect for parts of the building the county government was operating out of.

“The legislation also authorized these prohibitions in public streets where there is a permitted event, whether or not the event actually received its permit,” the staff report said. “We believe this added authorization allows the County to enforce this prohibition on public streets during an event operating under a Special Event Permit.”

Those not affected by the ordinance would include:

  • Military personnel acting within the scope of their official duties
  • Sworn or retired law enforcement officers
  • Private security personnel hired by the County
  • Historical reenactors and those possessing inoperative, unloaded firearms when such persons are participating in or traveling to/from special events that involve the display or demonstration of these firearms
  • Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs and intercollegiate sports where the sport includes the use of a firearm

The move comes after the General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to adopt certain prohibitions on firearms. The first advertisement for the proposed ordinance was at a County Board meeting Wednesday night, with a full public hearing scheduled for Sept. 12.

The legislation is nearly identical to similar legislation passed recently in Alexandria and is shaping up to face similar opposition. County Manager Mark Schwartz vowed to craft the ordinance to be in-line with policies in neighboring jurisdictions.

During the public comment yesterday, there were roughly 60 speakers, with County Board Chair Libby Garvey noting that an unusually high number of speakers who were not Arlington residents.

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A lot of local businesses are struggling during the coronavirus outbreak, but at least one seems to be doing just fine.

Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store that generated controversy when it opened four years ago, has had lines out the door for at least the past week.

The store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, which did not respond to a request for comment from ARLnow, said via social media last week that it was only allowing six people inside at a time and increasing sanitation efforts, in order to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Gun stores across Virginia have been seeing an increase in business amid the pandemic, NBC 4 reported.

The News 4 I-Team requested statewide data since the beginning of March and found the highest number of requests for background checks, 3,753, on Saturday, March 7, the very day Virginia announced its first COVID-19 case.

In the 10 days that followed, background check requests were up 45% from the same time period last year.

But Virginia State Police say this uptick hasn’t come close to the single-day record of 5,645 background check requests, set on Black Friday in 2019, shortly after Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature.

On Sunday, Nova Armory said it would be shifting to primarily appointment-based sales, starting Tuesday.

“All appointments will take priority over any walk-in customers,” the store said.

Photos courtesy anonymous

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(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Two people were pepper sprayed and had a knife pulled on them in Rosslyn Saturday night.

The suspect was someone the pair knew and the incident happened after an argument, police said.

More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING BY CAUSTIC AGENT (late), 2018-04140296, 1500 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 11:20 p.m. on April 14, police were dispatched to the late report of a malicious wounding. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 10:20 p.m., following a dispute between known individuals, the suspect sprayed the two victims with a caustic agent. The suspect subsequently brandished a knife before fleeing the area. Neither victim required medical treatment. Warrants for Malicious/Unlawful Wounding by Caustic Agent and Attempted Malicious/Unlawful Wounding were obtained for the suspect.

Early Monday morning, two men broke into Nova Armory in Lyon Park. Nothing was stolen from the gun store, police said.

BURGLARY, 2018-04160016, 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive. At approximately 1:53 a.m. on April 16, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that two unknown suspects forced entry to a business, causing damage. Nothing was reported missing from the business. The suspects fled prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a black male, approximately 5’10”-6’0″and 150-175 lbs., wearing a skullcap, gray pants and a dark jacket. Suspect Two is described as a black male, approximately 5’7″-5’9″ and 150-175 lbs., wearing a jersey. The investigation is ongoing.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including some that we’ve already reported, after the jump.

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) A gun store in Lyon Park is quietly doing steady business despite a roiling national debate over gun control policies.

Sales at NOVA Armory have not been affected by local and national protests for gun control in the past month, according to owner owner Shaun Poulin.

“It’s a small growth every couple months, but I don’t think we can correlate it to an event,” Poulin said.

Poulin said that the store hasn’t followed typical gun sale trends because, he believes, his focus is on community, not profit. The store has become a place for people of all backgrounds, including law enforcement officers and military personnel, to hang out.

“We’re not here to get rich off this. We’re here because we like it doing a service for people,” he said.

According to CNN there was a national uptick in background checks, which correlated to increased gun sales, during the Obama administration, but gun sales and corresponding background checks fell nationwide in 2017.

NOVA Armory’s sales, according to its owner, have held steady and haven’t followed national trends since it opened in 2016. That includes upticks in sales seen nationwide after mass shootings during Obama’s presidency.

The store sells the AR-15, the same gun used in the Parkland, Fla. school shooting that recently reignited the gun control debate.

Poulin noted that NOVA Armory has reserved the right to refuse service on any reason the store sees fit. There have been no threats made against the store since the February shooting in Parkland, Fla., he added.

The store, however, faced major community backlash prior to and shortly after opening two years ago. NOVA Armory, at that time under different management, threatened to sue 64 individuals who spoke out against the store’s opening. Also in 2016, the store suffered a burglary and an incident in which “a man with mental health issues walked [in] and started yelling obscenities.”

Photo via NOVA Armory/Facebook

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The lawsuit against 64 people who spoke in opposition to Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store, helped provide the impetus for a state bill to protect protesters from similar court action.

House Bill 1941, introduced by southwest Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) and co-patroned by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45), provides immunity from a lawsuit to anyone who speaks out on a matter of public concern, unless they knowingly make false statements. Defendants in so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” could be awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs under the bill.

It passed unanimously in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, and awaits the signature of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Levine said the desire to protest goes beyond party politics, and the new bill protects the First Amendment rights of those across the political spectrum.

“This is not a partisan issue,” he wrote in a message to supporters. “Liberals will want to protest gun stores, just like conservatives will want to protest affordable health care. But people should have a right to state their opinions and protest without fearing a lawsuit.”

Levine had initially proposed a bill of his own related to the subject, House Bill 2446, with sanctions against plaintiffs who “bring an action to deter someone from exercising his constitutional rights.” That bill was tabled in the House Committee for Courts and Justice. Levine then signed onto HB1941 as chief co-patron.

Nova Armory sued opponents who spoke out against its opening, including Arlington County’s seven state representatives, who signed a letter to landlord Katya Varley on General Assembly letterhead expressing their objections.

Nova Armory alleged in its lawsuit that the owner and landlord were harassed, and that death threats were mailed to Lauren Pratte, the store’s 16-year-old “owner-in-training.”

In a press release last March threatening such action, Pratte said ownership were concerned about the infringement on their civil rights by their state representatives.

“We’ve given up on fact-checking all their false statements,” Pratte said at the time. “Instead we’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority.”

But one day before the lawsuit was due to be heard in Arlington County Circuit Court, the Washington Post reported the store filed a notice to drop the suit.

“I am delighted — though not surprised — to learn that Nova Armory nonsuited its lawsuit today,” Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48), another defendant, said in a statement to the Post. “From the very beginning it was clear that this lawsuit had no basis in law or fact.”

At the monthly meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, Levine said the bill has a broader mission beyond this one lawsuit. Instead, he said, it protects anyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“If you want to go out and protest, you are free to go out and protest,” he said. “They can’t sue you.”

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Police cars outside of Department of Human Services (file photo)Police were called Wednesday afternoon after a man with mental health issues walked into the Lyon Park gun store and started yelling obscenities.

The incident was reported around 2:20 p.m. at Nova Armory (2300 N. Pershing Drive).

The man left before police arrived. He was later found but was referred to county social services and not charged with a crime.

This was at least the second time police were called to the store this fall. In September police investigated a potential burglary at Nova Armory; no guns were taken during the break-in.

From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

At approximately 2:19 PM on November 16, police were dispatched to the 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive for the report of a male subject who entered the business yelling obscenities. The man had exited the business prior to police arrival but responding officers were able to identify and locate the man. After investigation, officers determined that no crime had occurred. The subject has a history of mental health issues and had been referred to county government services.

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Morning Notes

View of Skyline from Douglas Park

Gondola Study Says System is ‘Feasible’ — It is “feasible” to build a gondola that brings riders from the Rosslyn Metro station to Georgetown, according to a study supported by the Georgetown and Rosslyn BIDs and other entities. The gondola system would cost $80-90 million to build and about $3.25 million per year to operate, according to the study. [Washington Business Journal, Washington Post]

Gun Store’s Lawsuit Dropped — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory has dropped its lawsuit against 64 residents and elected officials who, it claimed, conspired to try to ruin its business. It previously contended that the actions of “local crazies” who spoke out against the store could be a case of “tortious interference.” [Washington Post]

GOP Candidate: Nov. 8 Will Be ‘Sad Day’ — Election Day will be “a sad day for American voters because they have been let down by the system,” says Charles Hernick, the Republican candidate for Congress who’s challenging Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). Hernick said that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump “has brought the bar so low that he’s making Hillary Clinton look like a shining star,” even though Clinton’s presidency would be “damaged goods.” [Telegraph UK]

Commission Members Wanted — Arlington County is looking for residents to serve on a Joint Facilities Advisory Commission that will “provide input on capital facilities needs assessment, capital improvement plans and long-range facility planning for both the County Government and Arlington Schools.” The deadline to apply is Nov. 16. [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Bee and flower (Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk)

Gun Store Has New Owner — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory has reportedly been sold to one of its employees. Shawn Poulin, the store’s manager, says he is now also its majority owner. The previous owner, Dennis Pratte, at one point claimed that the store was actually owned by his 16-year-old daughter. Poulin says the store is profitable and he plans to expand it to a second floor, “with a showroom to feature rifles, tactical gear and an expanded clothing line.” [Washington Post]

New Bishop for ArlingtonUpdated at 9:25 a.m. — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is getting a new bishop. Bishop Michael Burbidge, 59, is transferring to Arlington from Raleigh, N.C. Burbridge is scheduled to be installed as bishop on Dec. 6, replacing current bishop Paul Loverde, 76. Some local Catholics have been pushing for a new bishop who will take the diocese in a different direction than Loverde, a traditionalist who decried the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. Burbridge was critical of North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom” law, which was seen as anti-LGBT, though he was also against an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte that HB2 was intended to undo. [Fox 5, InsideNova]

The Evolution of Ballston — GGW takes a look at the past, present and future of Ballston. The article notes that Ballston was once the end of the Orange Line and that ridership at the station fell in the 1980s when the line was extended to Vienna. [Greater Greater Washington]

Immigrant Women to Protest at DCA — Immigrant women and labor union allies are planning a protest at Reagan National Airport today. They’ll be protesting the treatment of immigrant women who work at the airport, claiming poor working conditions for immigrant mothers in particular. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk

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Morning Notes

September sunset over volleyball court in Fairlington

Another Temporary Extension for Comcast — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve another temporary extension of the county’s franchise agreement with cable operator Comcast. The extension will run through Oct. 31, 2016. Comcast’s last long-term franchise agreement in Arlington expired in 2013; officials say the temporary extensions have been necessary to allow negotiations to continue. [Arlington County]

Arlington Community High School Open House — The former Arlington Mill High School program has a new name, a new location and will be holding an open house this weekend. Arlington Community High School, as it is now known, has moved to the former Fenwick Center at 800 S. Walter Reed Drive. The school is holding an open house from 9-11:30 a.m. this coming Saturday. [Arlington Public Schools]

Clement Laments Development — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she has exposed “disturbing development trends in Arlington.” According to Clement, continued development has “transformed Arlington” and harmed schools and parks. [Audrey Clement]

Nova Armory ‘Under New Ownership’Added at 9:55 a.m. — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory, which was the scene of a break-in earlier this week, is “under new ownership,” according to a tweet sent from the store’s Twitter account overnight. No additional information was immediately available. [Twitter]

Twitter FYI: We’re Not @ArlnowAdded at 10:05 a.m. — The above tweet presents a great opportunity to remind readers that our Twitter handle is @ARLnowDOTcom. It’s not @arlnow, which belongs to an Apple news site that hasn’t published a new tweet since 2010. Check here to see if you’re among the folks tweeting at the wrong account.

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