In little more than a year, two business owners who planned to open retail stores selling firearms in Arlington have been met with opposition from community members who have objected to these businesses coming into their neighborhoods.
Some people have asked Arlington County government to prohibit a firearms store from opening in Arlington. However, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the sale of firearms is regulated by the Code of Virginia and Arlington County does not have the authority to prohibit these sales or businesses. Arlington’s authority is limited to granting a Certificate of Occupancy, which covers such items as permits and inspections to ensure compliance with code and zoning requirements, e.g., building, mechanical, plumbing, fuel gas, electrical, fire protection systems, energy, accessibility, etc.
In the past, neighbors have successfully lobbied the potential landlords of planned gun shops and engaged in some actions to place economic pressure on the landlords and businesses.
Currently, residents are asking about a planned gun shop at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, in the Lyon Park neighborhood. See below for related documents and Frequently Asked Questions.
- County Board letter on planned gun shop in Lyon Park
- Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) and application for the C.O. for planned gun shop
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 02-29-2016, Part 1
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 02-29-2016, Part 2
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 03-10-2016, Part 1
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 03-10-2016, Part 2
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 03-10-2016, Part 3
- Response to FOIA request on NOVA Armory, 03-10-2016, Part 4
Question: Who regulates the sale of firearms?
Answer: In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the sale of firearms is regulated by the Code of Virginia, which requires firearms dealers to be licensed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as registering with the Virginia State Police’s Firearms Transaction Center to be assigned a Dealer Identification Number. In addition to placing the sale of firearms under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, the Code of Virginia expressly prohibits localities from adopting and/or enforcing regulations or ordinances governing the purchase, transfer, or storage of firearms (Code of Va. §15.2-915).
Question: Why did Arlington County issue a permit for a firearm retail store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, Suite 2B?
Answer: Selling firearms is a retail sales use under the Zoning Ordinance, and it is allowed wherever retail uses are permitted. The possible site for the retail store is zoned C-1, Local Commercial District, which allows retail uses as a matter of right. There are no outstanding issues at the County level that could prevent issuance of a final Certificate of Occupancy and the County had no authority to withhold it. Localities are prohibited by state law from taking administrative actions restricting the transfer or purchase of firearms.
Question: Is the presence of a day care center near a firearms retail store a violation of the federal Gun Free School Zone Act?
Answer: Day care facilities do not qualify as “school zones” under the federal Gun Free School Zone Act.
Question: Are there any covenants on the 2300 N. Pershing Drive property that could potentially restrict its use?
Answer: Staff are currently researching this question which involves title searches and may take a week or two.
Question: Is there any way to ensure parking is only done off street for 2300 N. Pershing Drive?
Answer: Permit parking is only established on residential streets where 60% of the residents request the program and there is a measurable indication of overspill from outside of the zone (75% occupancy/25% out of area rule). The County’s decision about whether to grant residents’ requests for zones is made on a block by block basis after an evaluation by staff. Block residents must request permit parking through a petition that includes signatures from at least 60% of the affected households. A minimum of two parking surveys are required. View an illustrative map of curbside parking around N. Pershing Drive.
Question: Is the permit for the retail gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive publicly available?
Answer: Yes, see “Related Documents” above.
Question: Why was the Sunday, Feb. 28 meeting of the Lyon Park Citizen’s Association attended by two Board members closed to the public?
Answer: The decision to keep the meeting closed to the public was made by the Lyon Park Citizen’s Association, a private nonprofit organization established to promote the welfare and advancement of the Lyon Park. With only two Board Members attending, the meeting did not meet the quorum threshold of three or more County Board members which would have necessitated opening the meeting to the public as an official Arlington County Board meeting. The Association’s meetings are held on private property and the Association has no obligation to make its meetings open to the public.
Question: When was the County Board first notified of the firearms store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive?
Answer: The County Board was notified of the Certificate of Occupancy application as part of the County Manager’s Jan. 22, 2016 Manager Notes. See page 3, “Planning and Development.”
Question: What businesses currently operate out of 2300 N. Pershing Drive?
Answer: Here is a complete listing of active business tax accounts (those with business licenses) at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. (Note: “DBAName” means “Doing Business As.”)
Question: Does the presence of a U.S. Army Recruiting station preclude the opening of a firearm store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive?
Answer: Arlington County does not regulate firearms in Virginia and County staff are unaware of any prohibition on firearm stores near U.S. Army Recruiting stations. The sale of firearms is regulated by the state. Residents interested in learning about state laws can visit the Virginia State Police firearms webpage. Federal resources provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are also available available online.