Sunnyvale gun store opens near schools

U.S. Firearms became Sunnyvale’s first dedicated gun store in 20 years, drawing the ire of many nearby residents and parents. The business, permitted under the city’s zoning codes, is less than a mile from two elementary schools and a preschool. While the business owner began applying for permits in December, neighbors were caught off-guard -- only discovering the store’s existence when the building’s marquee was unveiled three weeks ago.
U.S. Firearms became Sunnyvale’s first dedicated gun store in 20 years. It's less than a mile from two elementary schools.

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Last Saturday, U.S. Firearms became Sunnyvale’s first dedicated gun store in 20 years, drawing the ire of many nearby residents and parents.

The business, permitted under the city’s zoning codes, is less than a mile from two elementary schools and a preschool.  While the business owner began applying for permits in December, neighbors were caught off-guard — only discovering the store’s existence when the building’s marquee was unveiled three weeks ago.

In response, a contingent of concerned Sunnyvale parents and residents spoke before the City Council, expressing anxiety over the store’s proximity to heavily residential areas and schools.  Parents said they were worried about their children having to walk past the store on their way to and from school.

“I feel as if having [a gun store] in close proximity to many schools is a danger,”  Sunnyvale Elementary School teacher Gina Lermont told the City Council last week.  “I’m not sure if I want to educate my second graders on something like gun safety.”

Pooja Sampat, a Sunnyvale resident and mother of young children, questioned why the city planning commission had not instituted additional safeguards to separate a firearms business from residential areas.

“As a city council, would it be at all forgivable if somebody purchased a gun from there and walked down to one of the local elementary schools and shot?” an emotional Sampat said.

Councilman Ron Swegles was quick to point out that numerous safeguards exist, including a 10-day waiting period on gun purchases as well as local and federal background checks.

The principal of nearby Sunnyvale Christian School, Leanna Christie, said she believes many of the fears are overblown.

“Most parents don’t walk their kids past the store.  They drive them to school,” she said.

Although Sunnyvale Christian School is 100 yards down the street, Christie said she has relatively few reservations about the store’s opening.  “While we weren’t notified until the signs went up, we want to be good neighbors.  And honestly, people carry guns.  That’s just the reality.  We’re more concerned that there’s no crosswalk for the kids to get to school safely.”

In addition to its proximity to children, residents also said they were fearful such a store might attract thieves and people looking to purchase weapons to commit crimes.

U.S. Firearms owner and operator Eric Fisher said such concerns are unfounded and accused the media and the entertainment industry for having unfairly vilified the firearms industry. “From San Diego to Oakland, I have never experienced any violence in any of the stores I’ve worked at,” he said.

A public records check revealed no cases of a robbery of a Bay Area gun stores within the past five years.

Fisher has spent the past two decades working at firearms-related businesses, including 10 years as manager of Reed’s Indoor Range in Santa Clara. He said the businesses generally develop strong ties with local police departments.  He has provided gun-training courses to various police departments for the past eight years, Fisher said.

He said he hopes to open a dialogue with opponents of his new Sunnyvale store. “While I have the right to run my business, I want to use it to teach people that don’t have the capacity to defend themselves,” Fisher said.  “I want to take a personal interest in the community.”

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10 Comments

  1. says: Jason

    Here’s a fun game: find a place where you can open a gun store in the SF Bay Area that’s *not* within a mile of at least 1 school. Good luck…

  2. says: Buckster

    The fast food restaurants pose more of a danger to kids than a gun store. I don’t hear parents complain about that. As a parent I would rather my child be educated correctly about everything in our society, and not stick his head in the sand. And worrying about some phantom “robbery” of a gun store during school hours? Are you kidding? it’s as safe as the police department.

  3. says: JakiChan

    I wonder why this article doesn’t mention the pro-store speakers that outnumbered the anti-store speakers?

  4. says: jdberger

    Sorry, Solly. People just don’t care. The folks who are afraid of guns have cried wolf too many times – and the wolf has never appeared.

    There are around 200 million firearms in the United States. Roughly 45% of American households have firearms. The years 2008 and 2009 saw a five-fold increase in firearms purchases – yet the rate of homicides with firearms either remains stable or decreases over the years.

    Dire predictions of shootouts over parking spaces or bad calls at Little League games haven’t materialized.

    The fact is, Americans have embraced gun ownership as a benefit of citizenship. They look askance at folks who seek to infringe that right.

  5. says: Ed

    Living not too far from Sunnyvale, and working just a mile from the border, I wonder if these Puritanical hand wringers bothered to see how many bars, liquor stores, tobacco stores, convenience stores (selling alcohol and tobacco and pornography!) and other ‘vice’ peddlers are within a mile of their schools.

    http://maps.google.com
    search strings:

    “liquor store near 590 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA, 94086”
    “tobacco store near 590 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA, 94086”

    But, the police are nearby. So no harm will befall the chiiiiiiiiiildren!

    “police stations near 590 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA, 94086”

    And I think there is a strip club right around the corner, too.

  6. says: Hal B

    I used to live right near there. There is indeed a strip club right across the street next to the El Pollo Loco.

  7. says: Eric C.

    The problem is that this gun shop is 30 feet from a residential zone and 30 feet from the nearest house. I am sure that house appreciates the 40K hit in market value. Gunshops can be robbed and can attract nut jobs – not the owners but the customers. I am not opposed to owning guns – a few people need them and some enjoy hunting and target practice. But the main issue here is how close this is to residential zoning. Many towns have 200-300 feet buffer between residential and gun shops.

    Of course no-one ever complements the City Council and I am not going to start a trend. At the meeting they let a few speakers speak then went on with business for a couple of hours in attempt to decrease the energy level of the speakers. In those two hours they spoke at length on whether the General Plan should be in lanscape or portrait. This almost (but not quite) made me madder than the fact that they did not look at zoning buffers for gunshops at any time – and yes this is 2010 and this has not been addresss. I believe they said that the strip clubs do now have an ordinance for buffer and the existing ones were there before. So I am extremely disappointed with my first experience with the City Council of Sunnyvale and I say – “throw the bums” out and I will work for their opponents so they would not be elected again.

  8. says: Kyle

    OMG…who would go in a gun store and purchase a firearm and go down the near by school to commit crime? And I don’t know any kids would hang out at a gun store after school or be influence of just walk by a gun store. This concern are non-sense.

    Sunnyvale never had a gun store in the pass 20 years, why not mix up the business in the community? Anyone that go to store to buy a gun 99.9% are up standing citizen and educated person since most firearms cost more than a person monthly pay check. So I don’t think this type of store would attract any gang bangers to the city, but rather bring more highly educated people and working class to Sunnyvale.

    People should relax and let the man do this business. The commend the council for not getting involve too much in this gun business.

  9. says: Tom J

    I live in Sunnyvale and have school going kids. I support the store as it is a legitimate business and run by law abiding people. Most criminals would not go to a store to buy their guns legally anyway.

  10. says: MICHAEL KEITH

    The concern of the teacher that stated she did not think she would want to teach firearm safety in her class is out of place. Firearm safety should be taught in school. I beleive it is negligence of government to not teach basic firearm awareness and safety at all grade levels in school. When accidental shootings are analyzed it is generally the uninformed / trained individual that causes an accident. These could be prevented by proper awareness training. Taught by the Police Departments, Fish and game or NRA or other certified instructors.

    Personally, I feel that schools should be prosecuted for neglignece when it comes to these accidents as it is within their power and authority to allow such training. It is the failed policy of ” No Tolerance of Firearms and Weapons” in schools that is more about modifing a generation of children to be accepting of Restrictive regulations when they become voters than for the protection of children.

    I believe this doctrine and its effect is evident when you have residents that are concerned that a shop was issed a permit when he was lawfully within the zone authorized. The bizzare worry of parents that there child would be harmed or influenced by the simple act of passing a store that markets firearms. It is America and the last time I heard it was a Free country and not a despotic country that denies it citizens the freedom of Firearm ownership and other rights guarenteed in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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