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Big Daddy Guns spokesman: They won the battle, not the war

Today, September 15, was originally to be the day Big Daddy Guns opened in The Deck, the new Hardy World development at 1050 University Ave.

That was before the developer refused to turn over keys to the space and announced last week that the two companies had mutually decided to terminate the lease.

Big Daddy Guns Co-founder Sherrie McKnight says the Florida-based firearms retailer still has plans to come to Monongalia County, though the location and timeline are yet to be determined.

A dozen or so people showed up to a Cranberry Hotel conference room Wednesday evening to hear McKnight speak on the recent uproar over her now-canceled downtown store and the company’s future plans.

“At the end of the day, I cannot take over a location that does not want to give me a key,” she said of The Deck, noting her company initially learned of the Morgantown development through an existing working relationship with Hardy World at another location.

The decision by Hardy World to remove Big Daddy Guns, she added, was the result of pressure on the developer from a small but very vocal group of people.

Protect Morgantown is the group that formed specifically to oppose Big Daddy Guns coming into downtown Morgantown. It’s also behind zoning laws that would restrict where firearms can be sold within the city.

Nick Lahera, the public relations coordinator for Big Daddy Enterprises, said what happened to their store in Morgantown is happening across the country — groups pressure developers and landlords, who capitulate to avoid controversy, while pushing local laws limiting gun sales.

McKnight said the company won’t be caught off guard a second time.

“Now I’m vetting landlords. Are you strong enough to have us come in? If I give you my money — if there’s an exchange — I want to know that you’ve got my back because I’ve got yours,” she said. “Now the conversation has totally changed.”

She said those conversations are still being had locally, noting her and Lahera looked at a number of potential store locations on Wednesday though a new project here would come sometime after three other store openings already slated in 2022.

McKnight also commented on the fact that it was initially announced Wednesday’s press conference would be held at Defense in Depth, a firearms retailer, range and training center located in Sabraton. Defense in Depth came out the following day and said that was not the case.

“I mean, a gun business being canceled by another gun business? I’m not trying to be personal about that, but it was personal. We got a ‘yes’ and then we got a ‘no’ ” she said.

Lahera added that despite all the local adversity, the company will continue to advocate for the Second Amendment and plans to do so as part of this community.

“They won the battle,” he said. “Not the war.”

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