What Happened When I Spoke Up about the (Completely Legal) Home-Based Gun Shop Less Than 1,000 Feet from our Elementary School
One day, I was surfing around Google Maps, seeing how long it would take us to get from here to there locally, when I noticed something that immediately sent my heart rate sky high. A block from my house, and a little more than a block away from where my children attend fourth grade, there was a business tag on a house (ON A HOUSE!) that said [name of gun-based business].
Did I read that right?
My kids walk home from school every day and, unbeknownst to me, they were walking past a gun shop. Did other parents know about this? It seems like something that would be incredibly important to know.
I sat on this information for a few weeks, not really knowing what to do with it. In hindsight, I may have been in denial, thinking we could just go on, business as usual. But I discovered something about myself in 2019.
After years of keeping quiet, being the good little suburban mommy, I discovered that if I don’t speak up, I feel like I’m disintegrating. I literally feel like I’m disintegrating. The knowledge I uncovered on my Google Maps search gnawed at me. Still, I had to do my research.
The only research I could really do was to visit the website of [name of gun-based business]. The top of the page was all about getting your guns engraved, which struck me as odd. Engraved guns? Must be a part of the culture. I asked my husband about this (he’s a country boy who’s been around guns his whole life) and these are his exact words: “It’s like getting a tattoo on your dick. It’s stupid.” But that’s neither here nor there.
Additionally, it seems transfers of ownership are also performed at this location. I scrolled further down the website and saw that you could also get a custom holster the size of a cupcake. Yum!
Then we got to the real shit: Complete Handgun $175, Complete Revolver $200, Complete AR $450+. Whether they are selling, buying, or rubbing them in oil and putting them up their bums really makes no difference to me.
We are less than 1,000 feet from an elementary school. A place where hundreds of parents send their precious little lives every day, trusting they’ll be safe. A place where 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds have to participate in lock-down drills just in case someone comes in, or drives by when the kids are out at recess, carrying a newly-engraved or newly-transferred AR and does the unthinkable.
Anyway, I’d been speaking up lately about climate change and healthcare, I’d even begun a run for a local office that required me overcoming intense social anxiety to knock on doors and collect signatures of people I didn’t know so I could get on the ballot. Additionally, I was attending social events and forcing myself to be way more outgoing than I had theretofore felt comfortable with. I knew the time had come.
I was literally shaking — as I’m shaking while typing this — when I pulled up the map on my computer and screen-shotted the area close to our school. I added a red circle around our elementary school and a red circle around the home where the gun shop is located, and made a notation that it was 0.2 miles away from the school.
I then took a deep breath and posted it to our school PTC’s Facebook page (258 members) with the caption: “Does it terrify anyone else that someone is running a gun shop out of their home 0.2 miles away from where our children go to school? Does anyone know if there are rules about how far away they have to be?”
Now, you would expect parents of helpless elementary school children to be a bit concerned over the proximity to school of a home-based business that deals with assault rifles a block away from school grounds, wouldn’t you?
Well, apparently not in our school. I got some responses that they didn’t have any problem whatsoever with a legitimate businessman doing business, some responses that they were more scared of the pedophiles in the area (yeah, those drive-by pedophiles really freak me out!), harassed by a dad of a child in my son’s class (I blocked him), even got laughed at by a dad who had a picture of a kid with an assault rifle posted on his FB page (what kind of psychopath laughs at a mother who is concerned about her children’s safety? — I blocked him too).
To top it off, I even lost a friend because, according to her, I was making trouble for a nice family (someone invites weapons of war into our school community and I’m the one who’s making trouble?).
Only one mom felt empowered enough to write a statement in support of concern for our children’s safety.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, in her book Fight Like a Mother, calls people like those who commented on my FB post ‘the Vocal Minority.’ They are a minority of voters who make a big noise. They will harass and try to make you look stupid, but it’s important to remember that there are more of us than there are of them.
The homeowner/business owner commented on the post and assured us all that the business was perfectly legal and he had all the proper licenses. I responded that that was wonderful, but after personally suffering a loss myself due to an accidental gunshot, I would be especially vigilant of his business because it was so close to the school.
Further research revealed to me that, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, there is supposed to be a 1,000-ft gun free school zone. Even further research told me that this “prohibition does not apply to the possession of a firearm on private property not part of school grounds such as an FFL’s business premise (e.g., commercial storefront, residence, or driveway).” (Italics mine.)
So, according to federal law, running a gun shop out of your home within a gun-free school zone is perfectly legal. I looked up some state regulations. All I could find was that it was illegal to open a new firearms business within 500 ft of a school. The home-based business in this case is about 750 ft from the school.
At this point, I started wondering why the business owner was commenting on a post on our school PTC’s FB page. Well, it turns out that one of the families that attends the school is the family that lives in the house that deals with the guns. This was a complete shock to me.
Never in a million years did I think that someone with children in this day of mass shootings would have such poor judgment and would care so little about the safety of children as to have a gun-based business within 1,000 feet of an elementary school.
Apparently I was wrong.
There’s a place for this type of business — a residential neighborhood near a school is not that place. Until the laws are changed to reflect the concern most moms feel for their children regarding gun safety, it seems we just have to live with putting our children’s lives in danger as they head off to school every day. Poor judgment that puts our children’s safety at risk is perfectly legal in America.
(Author’s note: I’ve edited out any allusion to the name of the business. Someone felt it was appropriate to divulge the location in a comment that I have subsequently removed.
Additionally, whether or not guns are being sold at this location is not the point. The point is that handguns, revolvers, and ARs are being actively brought in and out of a location in a neighborhood near a school.
But, please, why would someone advertise they have a license to buy and sell firearms if they’re not selling firearms?)