The gun store next door: the proximity of a weapons dealership raises questions on Trinity’s campus

Elizabeth Ugan, News Editor

 Aloma Avenue is well-known to Trinity Prep students for a variety of reasons: morning traffic, Tijuana Flats, Starbucks etc. However, due to recent events and controversial political discussions, the area on Aloma Avenue around Trinity has become notable for another reason.

  The Armories: Orlando Gun Shop, located at 3607 Aloma Avenue, is on the way to school for many students and is situated exactly one mile from Trinity’s campus. On most days, Trinity is separated from The Armories by as little as a two-to-four-minute drive.

  Because of the epidemic of mass shootings across the country over the past few years and the ongoing debate on gun control legislation, the nearby location of a weapons dealership within a one-mile radius of a school has garnered some attention from students, parents and faculty. Associate Head of School Dennis Herron said that opinions on the gun store’s proximity depend on the perspective.

  “I think there are some people that might be more concerned about it than others,” Herron said. “Some people have strong feelings about gun laws in our country and the relative ease with which you are able to acquire them… I think any kind of issue like that would be viewed differently by different people based on their own experiences and their own personal feelings about guns and gun violence.”

  The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida took place on Feb. 14, 2018 and raised awareness throughout the state about gun violence and safety standards in schools. Before the Parkland shooting, Florida law allowed anyone over the age of 18 to purchase a gun. After the shooting, the law was changed to require a minimum age of 21 for weapon purchases, including handguns. However, 18-year-olds are still eligible to buy rifles and shotguns without a need for fingerprints or permits. Sarah Sullivan, a mother of a Trinity student, is a member of the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

  “There is no known association between the store proximity and mass shootings,” Sullivan said. “Statistically, the way that guns are most likely to harm Trinity students is through suicide, so making guns more accessible does increase teen deaths by suicide.”

  The majority of suggested gun control regulations have been pointed out as violations of the Second Amendment, preventing many safety checks from being required by law, but Florida still requires background checks for all potential customers. The Armories store also goes a step further to take guns off the market for unqualified prospective buyers.

  “All gun stores in Florida have to do a background check before selling guns,” Sullivan said. “This particular gun store also purchases used guns for resale which actually makes it less likely that that person would resell it on Craigslist or eBay where there are no background checks required.”

  Regarding the distance between Trinity and The Armories, there are no state or federal laws that specify the location of an arms dealership, though certain counties in Florida have required a minimum distance between schools and other stores of a controversial nature, such as adult bookstores and entertainment facilities. Social Studies Teacher Brandon Burmeister said that the issue of a weapons store’s location has come up before.

  “From a legal perspective, the court has ruled on this issue a couple times,” Burmeister said. “There was a case that was kind of similar to a US vs. Lopez, and there was also Prince vs. The United States, where they said this was really a state’s issue, that if they want to let a [gun] store be open near a school, they can because of a state’s ability to moderate that type of stuff.”

  Despite the proximity, Herron, Sullivan and Burmeister have said that there is no palpable sense of a lack of safety because of The Armories.  

  “I don’t think it affects the safety of our school at all,” Herron said. “I just don’t. If you look at most gun violence situations, there was an internal connection to it, and how the perpetrator did it was not connected really to the proximity of the gun.”

  Burmeister said that even though there is no real threat from the store, he still has reservations about its nature and proximity.

  “Whether it’s appropriate or not, from a personal perspective, I kind of don’t like it,” Burmeister said, “But I also understand the freedom that they have to do it.”

  Students have also responded to the store’s proximity with little worry, though Junior Class President Lili Pope said that she doesn’t know whether distance would affect the chances of violence.

  “It’s a little scary to think that someone could buy a gun and then walk down the street to Trinity,” Pope said, “But this proximity doesn’t really make me feel unsafe on campus because I’m not usually thinking about the gun store. Realistically speaking, no matter where the gun store is located, a school shooting at Trinity is still possible.”

  The debate on gun control is one that has lasted many years and is still ongoing. Looking at the whole argument, many people said that they believe that there are more pressing matters to deal with to take a step toward ensuring safety.

  “I’d prefer regulations on the use of gun locks in homes with children or requirements for background checks before gun purchases,” Sullivan said. “That’s where I think we should put our efforts for new requirements or regulations.”

  Nevertheless, the locations of gun stores like The Armories and any potential safety concerns they cause are still up for debate, and Burmeister said that it is an important debate to have.

  “I think the really big question and the elephant in the room is that I think that society… needs to have this debate free of organized interest groups that might manipulate it,” Burmeister said. “[The debate should include] citizens interested in exchanging ideas about what would provide safety and security for the populace and whether issues like this would provide a better measure of safety and security… and I think it needs to be had in the light with concerned citizens from all over participating in it.”