Protesters lined the sidewalk in front of the future location of Big Daddy Guns Thursday evening while representatives of the gun retailer held a community meet and greet event across town at Mylan Park.
The protesters, a group called Protect Morgantown, have been working to prevent the retailer from moving into a new development called “The Deck” currently being built at 1050 University Ave. between Kirk St. and Moreland St. in downtown Morgantown.
“One of the things that Big Daddy Guns keeps saying is that they have the right to open their business – we have the right to protest it,” Protect Morgantown organizer Jodi Hollingshead said. “So that’s what we are doing tonight.”
Hollingshead said the group chose to protest at the actual site of the store and not the meet and greet event because downtown is where the store will be visible to the community.
“As they are shaking hands across town we are going to show the actual community – right here in Morgantown where their store is going to be – how many people just don’t want them here.”
Hollingshead said she believes the number of signatures is a good indication that a lot of community members, a lot of community organizations, local businesses, and public officials have come forward to say “You are not welcome here. This is not a store that we want here. Your company’s values and practices don’t reflect that of the city of Morgantown. This isn’t for us – you miscalculated.”
The issue, the group claims, is not guns being sold in Morgantown – they realize there are already guns being sold by multiple retailers. Their issue is with this particular gun seller.
“Protect Morgantown is not opposed to the second amendment, we’re not opposed to responsible gun ownership at all. We’re West Virginians,” Hollingshead said. “We are not opposed to the second amendment – we are opposed to Big Daddy guns specifically and specifically in this location so close to so many churches, so many downtown businesses we know and love.”
Many of the protestors’ wielded signs against the company’s regard and support for controversial public figures like Kyle Rittenhouse and Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones.
U.S. House District 2 candidate Barry Wendell joined the group in protest.
“I think Big Daddy has the wrong impression of what Morgantown is,” he said, questioning the company’s support of people like Jones and Rittenhouse. “A 17-year-old who had no business having a gun on a street where he didn’t live and shot two people – Why is that man a hero? That’s despicable.”
Wendell said he thinks it is insulting for the company to think that just because we’re in West Virginia we are like that.
“We are not that kind of city in Morgantown. We are a very different kind of city,” he said. “We are a peaceful city, we are a loving city, we are – can I say a liberal city? And they don’t belong here. They just don’t.”
Surprisingly, many of the people who have been supporting Protect Morgantown in keeping out Big Daddy Guns are actual gun owners.
Morgantown resident and gun owner Stephanie Hunt was among the protestors Thursday. “I felt it was important to come out today because I don’t think this is a business that belongs in our downtown,” she said.
Hunt said she would like to see something not already available in the city like a fresh produce market.
“As Big Daddy themselves have said, we already have a lot of gun stores in this city – we have a lot of great gun stores in this city. And as a gun owner I really don’t think we need any more. I really like places like Defense in Depth because guns should be about defense, not showboating.”
Protect Morgantown continues to gain traction in the community with a Change.org petition that now has over 1,700 signatures, which Hollingshead proudly said is “more people than voted in the last city council election.”
Hollingshead said the group is currently pursuing all avenues to prevent Big Daddy from opening their doors and will continue to make their presence and their concerns about Big Daddy Guns known.