MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Community members and the owners of a gun business are butting heads on a potential new location for “Big Daddy Guns” in Morgantown.
During Tuesday night’s Morgantown City Council meeting, several people voiced their opinions on Big Daddy Guns opening on University Avenue in Downtown Morgantown. The store would be near several schools and West Virginia University’s campus.
One community member at the meeting told the council that they feel it’s not a good idea to have a store that’s in “walking distance of a campus filled with thousands of potentially unstable young people.” Another community member said, “if the store was somewhere else, I don’t care about the politics necessarily, but I just don’t think it should be where it is or where they want to put it.”
Sherrie McKnight, a representative from Big Daddy Guns, spoke at the meeting. She said she is aware of people’s concerns about their store being built in Morgantown and came to the meeting to give some perspective. She said that when they began their business, they set out to be different than other gun shops and wanted to make the gun business more friendly and relatable. McKnight said her passion is to educate, motivate and activate people about freedom and the right to protect and defend themselves.
“I believe that being helpless or defenseless at the hands of an attacker is a choice and no one, especially a woman or a mother, has to make that choice,” she said.
McKnight presented some statistics to the council during her speech.
“Pertaining to your concern about us being an assault weapons dealer, a fact to note is the FBI’s uniform crime report shows that over three and a half times as many people were stabbed to death in 2020 than were killed with rifles of all kinds combined. The report also shows 454 people were shot and killed with rifles in 2020 while 1,732 people were stabbed with knives …. now, even one life lost is too many in an unjustified circumstance. If your perceived threat from Big Daddy Guns is assault rifles, we should at least be clear on the facts and understand the root causes of violent crime,” she said.
However, that didn’t stop more than four other community members from presenting their feelings about the store.
“I think a confrontational, inflammatory, far-right gun shop is at the bottom of our list,” one person said about what businesses they want to see in downtown Morgantown.
Danielle Trumble, the Deputy Mayor and the 5th Ward Council Member of Morgantown, said she was pleased with the “civil discourse” at the meeting. She noted that as a mother and a person who frequents downtown, she empathizes with the community on the issue.
“I do not appreciate the divisive rhetoric that is used in the marketing of this particular business, so I hope that some of the things that they said at council last night about becoming part of our community and really getting to understand our community do come to fruition, because right now, I am personally concerned about it,” she said.
All comments from the business representatives and community members were made during the public hearing time of the meeting. It was not an official agenda item, so the council did not make any vote.
Trumble said the council can look at zoning changes but has no say in the approval or denial of a business license.