Virginia Gun Store Owner Fights Back

NOVA Armory has sued several people whom the range alleges are interfering with its business operations. Image from NOVA Armory website.

Dennis R. Pratte, II, owner and business manager of Broadstone Security, LLC, that does business as NOVA Armory, has had enough.

NOVA Armory opened its doors in March, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia, despite protests from various individuals and groups.

The owner has sued 64 people, including elected officials, claiming that they conspired to destroy the business, harassed him and the landlord, and mailed death threats to his 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, as the “owner-in-training.”

The suit, Broadstone Security, LLC vs. John Doe, Jane Doe, et al, #1600-1861-00, filed on April 18, 2016, in Richmond Circuit Court, named seven state legislators and others, claiming in the lawsuit that they participated in a “conspiracy to injure another in his trade or business.”

The legislators appealed to the landlord, on official General Assembly stationery, encouraging the landlord to renege on the lease agreement with Nova Armory, stating in the letter on March 2, 2016, “Given its proximity to Route 50 with easy access to Interstate 95, this location could be the site for potentially nefarious and illegal activities such as enabling individuals to successfully obtain fraudulent Virginia drivers licenses to purchase firearms, illegally paying Virginia residents to buy guns, creating a ‘black market’ to sell firearms for cash or drugs, or become a magnet for robbery as was recently the case in a firearms store in McLean, Virginia.”

One named lawmaker, Delegate Mark Levine, took to social media, urging residents of the community to boycott the entire strip mall where the store is located, insisting the store’s very presence puts people in danger. His post even included the statement, “Are you ready to pay for all the funerals of all the people that your guns murder? And provide reimbursement for all wrongful deaths you cause? If not, then please, we beg you, leave Arlington.”

A proposed gun store in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood lost its lease last spring after local residents pressured the landlord. The local residents and elected officials are trying the same tactic this time against NOVA Armory.

In response to the lawsuit, Levine said the suit was an attack on his First Amendment right of free speech, although he chose to ignore the Second Amendment rights granted by the Constitution or the fact that lawmakers in Virginia have generally supported residents’ constitutional rights to bear arms at the state level. Virginia law does not allow local governments to prohibit or regulate firearms merchants if the business complies with basic zoning rules.

Daniel Hawkes, attorney for the gun store, said “People generally don’t like it if you try to destroy their business. That’s malicious behavior.” He said someone has been following customers who leave the store and taking photos of their cars and license plates. “There’s been all sorts of creepy stuff by people with a morbid obsession, a neurotic obsession, with firearms,” he said. “They are really dangerous people.”

Pratte has had to hire private security for his family because of the death threat.

As for the lawsuit, Lauren Pratte said “As if infringing on my Second Amendment rights is not bad enough, the actions of these local crazies against our business is approaching the level of ‘tortious interference’.”

The lawsuit asks for $2.1 million in lost revenue and damages.