MCLEAN, Va. (WUSA9) -- A packed house of concerned parents and gun store supporters sat mostly in silence Wednesday as the McLean Citizens Association voted unanimously to study for a month the presence of a gun store next door to Franklin Sherman elementary school.
The store's presence in a commercial strip just a few hundred feet from the back of the school has been controversial since day one, drawing protests to its late September opening.
In an interview with WUSA9 before Wednesday's meeting, NOVA Firearms co-owner James Gates struck a conciliatory tone. He said he doesn't want to leave the location he just moved into, but is open to some kind of compromise.
"I'd rather find a way to make people happy and show them that we want to be part of the community, we want to give back to the community and we will do everything we can to keep it safe," Gates said.
By all accounts, NOVA Firearms is perfectly legal. The business complies with all state and federal laws, and all local zoning regulations. The large, white house converted into a store has no firing range, just a sales floor.
"It is very hard to find a gun friendly landlord, enough space that we can afford, enough space that we can actually grow, and be zoned for retail firearms," Gates said. "It's very difficult."
At the meeting, parents raised concerns that the store's presence would make it harder for staff at the school to differentiate between dangerous people approaching the school and gun buyers carrying their firearms openly to and from the store.
"Prior to the gun store being there if you saw someone with a gun you'd be able to assess that threat much easier," said Matt Lampy, the father of a Franklin Sherman fourth grader. "They can have a gun store elsewhere in McLean, I just don't think it should be at the back door of a school."
An initial draft of the MCA's study is due at their meeting next month.