Because The Scrapbook believes so strongly in gun safety, and teaching children about the importance of gun safety, we were surprised by a recent story in the Washington Post. It seems that a firearms shop in McLean, Virginia—forced recently to relocate to seek more retail space—has found a new home in a converted house on a busy road in a commercial neighborhood. But certain residents of McLean, including the local county supervisor, want to force Nova Firearms to relocate yet again. Their ostensible reason is that the shop is now located near an elementary school, and, as the Post reports ominously, “one classroom looks out into its parking lot.”
What the children in that classroom might see is not described, but we can imagine any number of dread possibilities: hunters buying rounds of ammunition; target shooters carrying home a new pistol; perhaps a father and daughter, worried about personal safety, walking to and from their car. These prospects seem to agitate the Post—and some McLean residents, who picketed the store on its opening day and now worry (in the words of one school parent) that “it’s going to become very, very ugly” unless this useful business, entirely innocent of wrongdoing and fully compliant with the law, is driven from town.
In one sense, of course, The Scrapbook is not surprised. McLean, which used to be nestled in a rural farming community and is now a bedroom suburb of Washington, D.C., is so fully estranged from its historic roots that the mere presence of a gun shop inspires a mob mentality. Indeed, the owners of Nova Firearms had initially signed a lease in neighboring Arlington but were obliged to find a new home when critics forced the landlord to nullify their contract. The cost of yet another move could prove enough to put them out of business—which might well be the motive here.
To which The Scrapbook responds with a warning shot. As is often said, the overwhelming majority of gun owners in America are responsible, safety-minded people—of all ages, races, creeds, and political parties—who own their guns for any number of reasons: hunting, collecting, target-shooting, personal safety. And Nova Firearms has every right to set up shop where it is presently located. There is no evidence that it has been anything but a good commercial neighbor, wholly undeserving of public abuse or hostile treatment at the hands of the Washington Post.
Yet if the students at Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, see anything from their classroom window, they should be comforted to observe a firearms shop next door to a day spa, down the street from a garage, a bank, a carpet store, and gas station—taking part, in other words, in the normal, everyday life of its community. Far from an incipient threat to McLean, Nova Firearms appears to be a lesson in citizenship. This is the traditional role of guns and gun possession in American life. What is uncharacteristic of American life is public hysteria, class-based disdain, and press/political pressure grounded in prejudice.