MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Some parents in Madison are concerned about the location of a new gun store.
Rocket City Armory is being built off of Plaza Boulevard in Madison, less than 1,000 feet off the campus of Midtown Elementary School.
Several parents of students at Midtown reached out to News 19 with concerns about the location of the Rocket City Armory.
“It’s not about the guns, it’s about the location,” said Rebekah Faris.
Faris has three children who attend Midtown and said the safety of her children always weighs on her mind. Especially given the rise of school shootings in America.
Faris said her child who is in third grade is old enough to understand about school shootings, and that they are starting to worry also.
“My third grader is, you know, a little bit older [than her other children]” Faris said. “Her friends at school are talking about the recent shootings, and they’re very concerned and worried and scared. To have a store like this within view of their recess time, you know it’s just very bothersome.”
Faris said that since the store is being built from the ground up, many parents didn’t realize what was going in at that location until a sign went up recently.
“When I saw the sign, I thought Madison Boulevard would be a great location for a store like this,” Faris said.
She said a gun armory is better suited for a different part of town, and not so close to Midtown Elementary.
Faris is also concerned because not only is it behind the elementary school, but it is directly across the street from Primrose School of Madison, a preschool and childcare facility. Another childcare center is also slated for an empty lot across from the armory.
Another Midtown Elementary School parent, Tyler Stutheit, also has concerns about the location of Rocket City Armory.
“I’m not anti this business, I’m not anti Second Amendment, I think the location was just kind of a poor choice and potentially in poor taste,” he said.
He also has concerns that the business is teetering on the edge of violating the Federal Gun Free Zone Act.
He said the boundary of the school is less than 1,000 feet from the location of the store.
“It’s less than 600 feet from the guard shack,” he said.
The federal Gun Free Zone Act “makes it illegal for any individual to knowingly possess a firearm in a school zone”. In the Act, a school zone is designated as 1,000 feet surrounding a school.
However, there are some exceptions to the act, and that is where the City of Madison tells News 19, that Rocket City Armory is a lawful business.
Statement from the City of Madison:
“While the City hears and understands the concerns of parents in our community, we wanted to share these exceptions to the Gun Free Zone Act that allow for the armory in question to operate legally. The area in which the business is located has been zoned as a B-2 Community Commercial District since 1989. Due to this current zoning, so long as the business remains up to code, the Act does not prohibit all guns or possession of guns in the vicinity of a school. The Act specifically exempts the following guns:
(i) on private property not part of school grounds;
(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;
(iii) that is—
(I) not loaded; and
(II) in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle;
(iv) by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone;
(v) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual;
(vi) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity; or
(vii) that is unloaded and is possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting, if the entry on school premises is authorized by school authorities.
The very first exception allows individuals to possess guns (loaded or unloaded) on their private property within the vicinity of the school. This would be the clearest exception allowing this business to sell and operate without violating the Gun Free Zone Act. So long as the business in question follows existing zoning regulations and laws, they are within their legal rights to own and operate out of their current location.”Statement from the City of Madison
The statement from the City of Madison specifies that since Rocket City Armory is on private property and is following all the correct zoning laws, it will be able to open and operate.
News 19 also reached out to the owner of Rocket City Armory, Jared Hill.
Hill shared the following statement with News 19:
“Rocket City Armory is a family owned business, with generations of residents here in Madison. We care deeply about our community and its people. Our business is more than selling firearms. Rocket City Armory is all about raising awareness and building firearm safety standards in Alabama, teaching the history of firearms and the artistry in the trade of gunsmithing.
We understand the recent concerns about the distance between our business and the new elementary school in Madison.
When Rocket City Armory opens, we promise to uphold all firearm laws including the requirement that all firearms are to be unloaded before entering and leaving our establishment. We will not allow unaccompanied minors to enter our store without adult supervision. The safety of children and neighbors in Madison is critically important to our Rocket City Armory family.”Jared Hill, owner of Rocket City Armory
Hill said they “understand the recent concerns about the distance between our business” and Midtown Elementary. He said they “promise to uphold all firearm laws”.
News 19 reached back out to Hill to see if there is an estimated opening date for the Rocket City Armory storefront. At this time, we have not received a response.
Faris and Stutheit said they plan to attend the upcoming Madison City Council meeting, to express their concerns. The two parents aren’t alone in their concern about the location.
An online petition called “Relocate Gun Armory Away From Local Schools” already has more than 300 signatures. Many of the comments share similar viewpoints to Faris and Stutheit.