The Bullets-n-Beans weapons retailer and coffee shop planned in Hamilton continues to draw opposition, most recently from parents concerned about student safety.
During the July 11 Hamilton Town Council meeting, Hamilton Elementary School PTA President Jenna Nemes spoke about concerns of parents and some residents over allowing a gun store within 1,000 feet of the school. She cited a state PTA resolution declaring that the presence of firearms retailers within any gun-free school zone was inconsistent with a safe learning environment.
“The concern is there is no parking,” Nemes said, referring to the former bank property on the corner of Colonial Highway and St. Paul’s Road. “[Gun shop] customers will be walking within the 1,000 feet gun-free zone, either to find parking or back to their car.”
According to the resolution, which was passed recently, the federal Gun Free Zone Act prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm in a school zone—defined as within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a public, parochial or private school—but exceptions to the law permit the sale of firearms, ammunition and accessories within a school zone. Under the state code, local governments are prevented from restricting firearms businesses in proximity to schools, the resolution noted.
In a previous council meeting, Town Attorney Maureen Gilmore said her research indicated that state law would not allow the council to prohibit the sale of firearms on the property.
The Virginia PTA resolution, however, “supports providing local governments with the ability to determine the distance firearms retailers must be located from schools when both are operating within designated Gun Free School Zones.”
Kevin Jones is the owner of Advanced Airsoft Operations who plans to offer gun sales and security training at 62 E. Colonial Highway.
Reached while on vacation, Jones said he had given a member of the PTA a tour of the former bank building and explained the services and training instruction he intends to provide.
“Our focus is safety and oriented toward individuals and families,” he said in an email. Jones said he had asked her to convey a request to Nemes for a similar tour and conversation to alleviate some of the concerns.
Jones received an occupancy permit for the retail gun store and training facilities, but will have to apply for a special exception from the Town Council for the Bullets-n-Beans coffee shop as town’s C-2 zoning district does not allow food establishments as a by-right use.