BURLINGTON – A gun shop is allowed to open near Karcher Middle School, although there are concerns about firearms circulating near the school and a childcare center.
A split Burlington Plan Commission has given shopkeeper Roy Christensen the green light to start selling guns in a former pharmacy at 300 S. Pine St.
The location is about one block from Karcher Middle School and Plymouth Children’s Center.
The exception makes charging legal
Two members of the planning committee and a school teacher spoke out against the new store and asked how an arms trade could work in a weapon-free school zone.
The Gun-Free School Zones Act restricts the carrying of firearms within 300 meters of a school. However, arms deals themselves are excluded.
But anyone who buys a gun or brings it for repair could break the law by leaving the store unless they take certain precautions. To be legal, any weapon would have to be emptied of ammunition and locked in a carry case while it is being carried in or out of the store.
People also read …
Art Gardner, a member of the planning committee, said he “did not trust” Christensen’s clients would obey the law every time. Gardner also said allowing arms sales near a school or childcare center requires taking risks.
“There is a risk,” he said. “And we all know that.”
However, gun shop supporters said they were near Karcher Middle School at 300 Wainwright Ave. or the Plymouth Children’s Center, 200 S. Pine St.
A commissioner, Alderman Tom Preusker, said if Karcher is ever a target in a school shootout, Christensen’s inventory of firearms and ammunition in the neighborhood could help defend the school. Regarding the shopkeeper, Preusker said: “He could probably be there sooner than any first aider.”
Burlington Police Chief Mark Anderson said the Gun-Free School Zones Act does not prohibit arms dealers from doing business near schools. Anderson didn’t want to say if he supports the new gun shop.
The commission voted 4-2 on Tuesday for approval required for the new store to open. The decision is not subject to review by Burlington City Council.
In addition to Preusker, the shop was supported by Commissioners Chad Redman, Andy Tully and John Ekes.
In addition to Gardner, Alderman Bob Grandi, another commissioner, also voted no.
Fourth in the community
Christensen, who lives in Salem Lakes, Kenosha County, is the owner of America’s Gunsmith Shop LLC, which operates at Camping World of Kenosha, 6802 118th Ave., Kenosha. Camping World, formerly known as Gander Mountain, decided a few months ago to stop selling guns. Stevenson, who has been with the company since 2004, has bought the gun shop and is now planning to move.
He is considering purchasing the retail space where Pharmacy Station once operated at 300 S. Pine St. The independent pharmacy closed last year after it sold its customer accounts to Walgreens.
Christensen said he is attracted to Burlington for its central location and for the community’s general support for hunting and shooting sports. The new shop, he said, could probably sell about 500 guns a year, and would do as much business in its repairs and gunsmith service.
Christensen said he expected to hear concerns about the location of the store and said he has been in the business for nearly 20 years without ever facing an issue that required police intervention.
“We are sensitive to that,” he said. “We have been a good steward of the community.”
America’s Gunsmith Shop LLC would join three other Burlington companies selling guns: Dunham’s Sports, 1120 Milwaukee Ave .; RP Home & Harvest, 1058 Milwaukee Ave .; and Reineman’s True Value, 417 Milwaukee Ave.
Burlington Area School District officials confirmed that Karcher Middle School is located in a gun-free school zone. But they too did not want to say whether they support the proposal.
“We trust that the city will make a decision that is in the best interests of the community,” said district spokeswoman Julie Thomas.
Plymouth Children’s Center officials declined to comment.
Melissa Statz, a teacher at Cooper Elementary School, posted her opposition on Facebook, calling on Plan Commission members to turn down the Pine Street location for firearms sales.
Statz said gun violence in schools and elsewhere had become an “epidemic”. She said city officials should find another location to house Christensen’s business.
“Common sense would tell you that there is a gun-free zone for a reason,” she said.
At a public hearing on the subject, no one spoke out for or against the new arms deal.
Grandi, Statz’s father, said parents in both Karcher and Plymouth would feel unsafe having a gun shop near their children.
Grandi noted that Burlington School officials had just spent $ 32 million on building a new Karcher Middle School with added security and said there was no point in allowing gun sales just down the street.
“We do our best to protect our children,” he said. “For me, this suggested store is a contradiction in terms.”
Get Local News in Your Inbox!