Correction: Previous versions of this article gave incorrect information about the owners of the property where Nova Armory plans to open a gun store in March. The current owner of the property is Ekaterina Varley, according to Arlington County Property records, not Richard P. and Norma P. Taylor, who were listed as the property owners on the county-issued store occupancy permit. The article also incorrectly stated that the landlord for the property is the Arlington Development & Consulting Group, which leases other space at the same address but does not lease the storefront that will be occupied by Nova Armory.
Residents of Arlington’s Lyon Park neighborhood may live just across Route 50 from a long-standing military base, but they say they won’t stand for a gun store that plans to open just a block away, across the street from a day-care center.
Nova Armory, which says its store will be one of the largest sporting arms dealers inside the Capital Beltway, received a certificate of occupancy Thursday for 2300 N. Pershing Drive.
After becoming aware of the planned store Wednesday evening, Arlington’s famously liberal residents immediately began objecting — launching an online petition, posting to their neighborhood email list and contacting their county government.
The outcry is similar to the one raised last May when a similarly named retailer, Nova Firearms, attempted to open a gun store in the Cherrydale/Maywood section of Arlington.
Sasha Cohen, who described herself as “a very strong” gun-control advocate, said she walks past the Pershing Drive site “three or four times a day, and I saw no notice” that a gun store was coming. “This is a very highly populated residential neighborhood,” Cohen said. “We have neighborhood meetings about all kinds of issues — someone opening a sushi restaurant had one with us — so why would we not hear about this in advance?”
The reason, Arlington County officials say, is that unless there’s a change in the land use, no notice is required when a new store wants to open. The application for the occupancy permit, lists Dennis Pratte as the permit holder. Neither he nor Ekaterina Varley, the person listed on county propertys records as the owner of the storefront, could be reached by phone for comment Thursday or Friday.
A voicemail message left on the phone number listed on the Nova Armory website was returned via a series of text messages from a person who declined to give his name. The messages said the store will focus on “high-end” skeet, trap and hunting arms and is a “safe, family-friendly sporting arms business.”
“We work with European manufacturers to provide customers in the US with custom engraved shotguns that are fine works of art. These shotguns become family heirlooms,” one message said.
Another message said the store is “not interested in firearms that attract the wrong clientele. We are an asset to the community and look forward to proving that to the concerned citizens.”
County officials appeared to know that the store would be controversial. There is a note to the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development on the application saying they should treat the application “as any other retail shop.”
The Arlington County Board sent an email to concerned residents Thursday explaining that there are few legal options available to keep the store from opening. Although by law gun sales are not allowed near schools, the presence of the day-care center does not trigger that provision, the email said.
“We understand and share the community concerns that many have expressed about this new tenant in the neighborhood,” the letter said. “We encourage you to share your concerns with both the owner of the complex and the tenant.”
By Thursday evening, more than 800 people had signed a Change.org petition opposing the store. The petition was launched late Wednesday, a few hours after Arlnow.com, a local website, reported the store was coming.
Numerous commenters on the petition said they don’t feel safe with a gun store in the neighborhood, or so close to a preschool. Several said they would boycott other businesses along the street if the gun store opens.
“This is not the kind of business we want,” Naomi Harris wrote. “We acknowledge the gun store’s legal right to be here, but they are not wanted.”
The store planned for the Cherrydale/Maywood neighborhood did not open because the landlord refused to rent the space to the merchant. But a few blocks away from that site, National Pawnbrokers has been selling firearms for years.