MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Firearms retailer Big Daddy Guns is opening a store in downtown Morgantown, but some say they worry the store will be a safety threat to nearby schools.
Big Daddy Guns is a Florida-based business created by the owners of Big Daddy Unlimited, an online subscription firearm service. According to Big Daddy Guns PR representative Nick Lahera, Big Daddy Guns currently has five operating stores in the southern part of the country with plans to open more in the coming months. One of these new brick-and-mortar stores will be at the Deck, a new development on University Avenue in downtown Morgantown.
Although there is no official opening date for that store, residents have already started speaking out against the store, saying that its close proximity to schools, churches and parks causes a safety threat. Protect Morgantown is a group of concerned residents who have started an Instagram page and a petition to prevent Big Daddy Guns from opening at the Deck. Their petition already has 744 signatures out of its desired 1,000.
The petition points out that the store would be less than a mile from West Virginia University, Morgantown High School and Mountaineer Middle School. “This store placement is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible, and in light of the recent and reoccurring gun tragedies, we must oppose the opening of any firearms retailer so close to a high school and university campus,” the petition said.
The petition also cites CDC data saying that on average, 330 people die from guns in West Virginia every year. “If this gun retailer opens in The Deck, we risk this number increasing,” the petition continued.
12 News spoke to Jodi Hollingshead, an organizer of Protect Morgantown, who said the company has raised some red flags for her.
“I’m aware of gun stores that are already open in the area, within walking distance of these places… schools, WVU campus, churches, but most of these are pawn shops, and I did a little research into Big Daddy Unlimited and Big Daddy Guns and that’s where my concern grew. The business itself is our concern, not just any firearms dealer,” said Hollingshead.
12 News also reached out to Big Daddy Guns regarding the safety concerns of some members of the Morgantown community. Big Daddy Guns released the following statement:
Big Daddy Enterprises is a First Amendment absolutist organization, in that we support everyone’s right to free speech and applaud those who choose to exercise these rights. The large caveat to the First Amendment is its inherent protection by the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is what allows us as ordinary citizens to protect ourselves appropriately and continue to live in a free and prosperous society.
Our founders, Tony and Sherrie McKnight, had no background in firearms until this became their passion in 2013. Seeing that the firearms industry was not too inviting or inclusive, they made it their mission to educate, motivate, and activate Americans about the Second Amendment. Big Daddy Guns works to build relationships in the community and to destigmatize firearm ownership. This happens, in part, by creating a welcoming environment in our stores focused on customers first, placing an emphasis on gun safety, promoting firearm ownership for personal protection, and fostering local relationships.
In Gainesville, FL, we successfully accomplish our mission by emphasizing customer service to all of our associates, hosting concealed carry certification courses, and partnering with college chapters at the University of Florida to expose them to gun safety. As we expand, it is our intention to expand all of these initiatives to every Big Daddy Guns location.Big Daddy Guns
According to the Protect Morgantown Instagram group, the concerned residents will be attending the regular Morgantown City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 21.