The pressure campaign aimed at shutting down gun stores

While we’ve been talking quite a bit about the pressure campaign aimed at the financial services industry to start monitoring sales at gun stores, there’s another campaign aimed at shutting down the gun stores themselves. Earlier today my colleague Tom Knighton had an update about an old mill in Massachusetts that’s now home to the country’s largest collection of gun makers and sellers under one roof; a location that’s now squarely in the crosshairs of anti-gun activists and politicians who are vowing to shut down the site and send the gun businesses fleeing.

From California to Massachusetts (and plenty of states in between), there’s a campaign underway to push gun stores out of established business areas and into the fringes, if not out of the city entirely. In many cases, however, officials seem to understand that an outright ban on gun stores probably isn’t legally defensible, and so they’re choosing instead to create zoning laws that relegate gun sales to unfavorable parts of a city; often industrial zones with little-to-no real commercial or retail businesses.

In some cases, activists have been more successful at targeting landlords and other tenants than city councils. That was the case in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Big Daddy Unlimited was set to open up its seventh gun store in a new downtown retail building called The Deck. As Big Daddy co-founder and Chief Happiness Officer Sherrie McKnight tells Bearing Arms on today’s Cam & Co, when the handful of anti-gun activists called Protect Morgantown were unable to get the zoning laws changed in time to block Big Daddy’s from opening, they shifted their attention to other tenants and the property owner.

The group opposed to Big Daddy’s latest location claimed that a gun store downtown would make the city less safe, and scored a big public relations victory when Starbucks announced it was pulling out of The Deck because of “safety concerns about another business” at the same location. At the time Starbucks and Big Daddy Unlimited were the only announced tenants for the retail center, so there was little doubt about which business Starbucks was referring to.

Interestingly, after Big Daddy announced earlier this month that property owner Hardy World had terminated their lease, a spokesman for the developer said that the coffee company had never actually quit the location.

On July 28, a representative of Starbucks told The Dominion Post it was pulling its store from The Deck, citing safety concerns due to its “proximity to another business.”

That was a bluff.

“Starbucks never pulled out. I know there were rumblings and Protect Morgantown had made a statement, but Starbucks never pulled out of the property at any time,” Williams said. “They regrouped and should be opening toward the end of the year.”

Even though Big Daddy won’t be opening up in downtown Morgantown, McKnight tells Bearing Arms that the company hasn’t given up on the West Virginia college town, which ironically is home to one of the best rifle programs in the country. The Big Daddy’s co-founder said she’s also appreciative of the support she received from gun owners in the area, though she added that she would have liked to have seen other local gun stores rally to their cause… even if it would have increased competition.

As Ben Franklin famously said, we all hang together or surely we will all hang separately, and while individual companies within the firearms industry may be competing against each other, they’re also allies in a fight against a common foe. It doesn’t matter if the gun store in question is part of a growing chain like Big Daddy’s, a locally owned mom-and-pop shop, or even a part-time gig operating out of a home; if they’re in the business of selling guns and ammunition, then the anti-gun activists want them shut down.

Sadly, these activists have had their share of victories, with Big Daddy’s expulsion from downtown Morgantown only the most recent example. Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. have no brick-and-mortar gun stores, while New York City has only the high-end Beretta Gallery, which, as the company notes on its website, does not have handguns on display “due to New York City laws.” These cities have typically used zoning and permitting laws to keep gun stores at bay, but there’s some hope that these abuses may soon be curbed by the courts. There are multiple cases already underway in various parts of the country dealing with restrictions on gun ranges that could also allow judges to weigh in on restrictions surrounding gun stores, and while the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Alameda County’s zoning laws back in 2018, the current makeup of the Court may be more inclined to take up the issue going forward.

Until that happens, however, gun owners need to remain vigilant to any pressure campaigns directed against their own local gun stores; the ones already in operation as well as those that still in the planning stages. The opposition isn’t going away, unfortunately, and that means we too need to show up at city council, county commission, and zoning commission meetings to show our support for the right to keep, bear, and acquire arms for self-defense.