Zoning Commission to Georgetown: Just Pretend the Gun Stores Aren’t There

Shhh, don't tell anyone I'm really a gun store...

The Georgetown Current reports today that the Zoning Commission adopted the much-hated gun store zoning rules. Instead of the 600 feet from churches, schools, etc. that the ANC and others encouraged, the Zoning Commission adopted only a 300 foot buffer zone. As a result, retailers will be able to open a gun store along large portions of M St. as a matter of right. But don’t worry, you won’t even know they’re there! Find out why after the jump:

As discussed earlier, the Zoning Commission is charting new ground with the gun store regulations. If they had adopted the 600 foot buffer, no one would be able to open a gun store in Georgetown.

Unless the decision is overturned (which Councilmember Evans promised at last month’s ANC meeting), there are large swaths of M St. in Georgetown where a gun store could open as a matter of right (i.e. not needing a variance). According to the Current, the stores would not be able to open on the first floor, nor could they have any signage. Basically they could open but only as a non-descript upper floor office.

As seen above, despite the high cost of real estate in Georgetown’s commercial district, we still have plenty of small nail salons and tarot card readers that reside in just the sort of non-descript second floor space the Zoning Commission thinks is perfect for gun stores. Would anyone really notice if you woke up one Saturday morning and there were one less palm reader in town?

While Georgetowners are probably happy not to see a huge neon sign saying “Randy’s Pistolareum: Glocks Half Off”, garishness was not really the primary concern. Nobody wants some huge cache of hanguns and shotguns sitting on the same block as their favorite tavern. Few people in town were happy with the Heller decision, fewer still believe that the right to bear arms also includes the right to buy said arms from a non-descript office in popular shopping district. To the extent that we are forced by the court to even allow gun dealers at all, it would seem that they’d be more appropriately located in light industrial zones.

What do you think: does it make you more or less uncomfortable with the idea of gun stores in Georgetown if you didn’t have to know they were there?

5 Comments

Filed under Retail

5 responses to “Zoning Commission to Georgetown: Just Pretend the Gun Stores Aren’t There

  1. justin

    Would it actually make business sense for anyone to open a gun store in Georgetown?

    I can’t imagine local residents patronizing the business much, and assuming other areas of the city had places to purchase guns, why would people travel to Georgetown?

    Perhaps a collectible firearm shop would be suited for Georgetown, but at that point I wouldn’t be worried about large stashes of Glocks…

  2. Jim McCarthy

    I’m a bookmarked fan of GM but I just don’t get why there’s a bee in this bonnet. A gun store in Georgetown: quel horreur!..? I mean, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people (read: criminals) that carry guns around in DC, right? People like, say, the guy that robbed the Steve Madden store in the story above. But having a shop where ordinary, law-abiding residents can purchase a gun is somehow an outrage?

    In order to think that a gun store would make Georgetown more dangerous, you have to believe that criminals preying on the neighborhood are currently inhibited because they can’t purchase their weapon near the scene of their crime. And I think there’s a pretty persuasive case to be made that all the crime victims that GM has reported on in recent months would have been better off had they not been, you know, defenseless and unarmed.

    I also don’t get the notion that Georgetown is being “forced by a court” to allow gun dealers. Wouldn’t that be the same legal guarantee (the Constitution) that forces Georgetown to tolerate, for example, news publications like GM or all those tax-exempt churches in the village?

    That’s why I’m not so sure that, as GM suggests, the issue isn’t simply aesthetic. Isn’t that the point of the question to readers — would you feel better if you didn’t have to know the gun store was there? Imagination is a wonderful thing but that approach seems strange. After all, there are plenty of dubious retail stores in Georgetown (1300 block of Wisconsin Ave, I’m looking at you). Should I pretend that those are actually the stores and shops that I would personally prefer?

  3. Believe it or not criminals have guns and they don’t have to buy them from a licensed dealer. They can get it from a guy, who knows a guy they know. For a moment you could buy a gun in one of our local neighborhood alleys.
    Banning guns in DC did little to curb criminal gun violence. It may have cut down on domestic gun violence and the odd dumb things with guns accidents.
    So I don’t forsee the guy who normally buys his guns from JoJo down the way choosing to trek to Georgetown for a registered handgun. What I forsee is an antique gun collector at best setting up shop. Or a high end sporting (as in hunting and fishing) goods shop.

  4. GM

    Thanks for the bookmark Jim!

    I think you raise some fair points. And I would agree that much of the objection (from the neighborhood as well as me) is more of a guttural response. I don’t think that criminals would come to Georgetown, buy a gun (and a northface jacket apparently) and then rob someone. The background check and waiting period would probably prevent that. I think the fear is more that criminals would target the store itself and its patrons, causing collateral risk to bystanders. But I’ll admit that that is a minuscule risk (far less than, say, speeding cars that roll through stop signs, or even the incredibly tasty and heart-clogging BBQ at Old Glory).

    I think the overarching concern is that a lot of DC residents simply don’t like the court’s ruling, and don’t interpret the ruling as saying that the Zoning Commission needs to adopt extremely loose (by other cities’ standards) regulations to facilitate the opening of stores in more areas than otherwise might be the case. I think your point about the First Amendment is fair, but opening a gun store is not the same as running a newspaper or opening a church. It’s more like running a printing press or selling communion wine. It facilitates the exercise of the right, but it is not the exercise of the right itself.

    Frankly, I’m really not sure how I feel about the proposed rules. My first reaction was visceral, but I haven’t come down to a fully thought-out conclusion. That’s why I was asking how others feel.

    Oh, and putting aside the question of whether someone getting mugged on the street would be better off with a gun (many believe it would lead to more violent muggings), the fact is that DC is not about to adopt a concealed carry law. Nobody getting mugged would be legally allowed to have a gun at the time they were mugged.

  5. Jim McCarthy

    Yes, GM is doing a great job of localized blogging and I’m a big link proselytizer for the site.

    I’ll pass on hacking through the thicket of whether DC zoning laws are a help or a hindrance to our fair village. But I think it’s fair to say that most public affairs analysts on both sides believe that the District brought these legal rulings on themselves by arguing such an intractable and, yes, unconstitutional position.

    But the larger point about how Georgetowners feel is a different and more curious discussion. I have no doubt that most locals will be appalled and perhaps even frightened to see an “open for business” sign on a Georgetown gun store.
    I think that view is irrational considering how many guns there are already in DC and the kind of people who exclusively own them — but I accept that many feel that way. The fear that a gun store will attract crime also seems implausible. Thieves with guns will rob a gun store and invite mayhem so that they can…obtain a gun?

    Besides, couldn’t you make the same objection to local jewelry stores or banks or Steve Madden outlets — all of which have been the scene of the “collateral risk” you describe? And it seems to me that even the dumbest of criminals would want to avoid robbing a store where the clerk is sure to have a shotgun behind the counter, right?

    But even accepting the feelings that most locals have — what about the feelings of the rest of us? The feelings I have walking around the neighborhood at night are mainly: wary and anxious. I haven’t had an evening guest over in the last two years — since the murder on Q Street — that hasn’t expressed the same fear. I’m sure the actual victims of crime in Georgetown have even stronger feelings. Are those sentiments less important than the ones that the gun store opponents hold? I’d say quite the opposite — the right to protect one’s home and person are paramount.

    Which brings me to another feeling: angry as hell, which is what I am at the DC government for denying me a fundamental freedom all these years. I hope that others weigh in on the discussion and I suspect that a Georgetown gun store will get a lot more business from locals than we might expect. But given all the crime and our defenselessness and police ineptitude, it’s just hard to muster much sympathy for local zoning sensibilities.

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