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Tennessee gun store may open near school

By Callan Gray, cgray@wcyb.com
Published On: Nov 07 2013 04:15:33 PM CST

A gun store is trying to open its doors across the street from an elementary school but Kingsport's city zoning is preventing it.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

A gun store is trying to open its doors across the street from an elementary school, but the city's zoning board is preventing it.

We spoke with the Rodney Pierson, owner of Freedom Firearms, Wednesday night. He says he is not putting the kids at risk.

Children won't be allowed in the store and neither will loaded guns, Pierson said.

The Board of Alderman had no problems with the store until now. The store sign went up back in August, but the doors remain closed until a zone boundary line is moved 30 feet. "We got an attorney and we talked to him about the school, and he said everything was okay," said Pierson.

Pierson and his two co-owners got their business permit with no trouble, but now they are having a hard time getting the re-zoning  approved, allowing them to sell guns, because a school is nearby.

Freedom Firearms is right next to Andrew Jackson Elementary School -- there is only a road separating the store's plaza from school grounds.

This doesn't worry Pierson, he said, even in the wake of so many school shootings across the nation this year. "Incidents like that happen in schools. There weren't gun stores next to those schools anyway," he said.

Pierson told us they do not plan on selling assault weapons because he said he does not know why anyone would need one.

Some women told the Board of Alderman they're still uneasy. "They were primarily concerned with the message it sends with guns next to the school," said Tom Parham, an Alderman.

Parham told News 5 that guns are sold near schools in other parts of Kingsport without problem. "We actually have gun sales at the Civic Center Auditorium, and that's right next to the Dobyns-Bennett campus," he said.

The board mostly supports the gun shop, but they've decided to wait to vote on it for two weeks, according to Parham, "To give the citizens a chance to talk to the gun owner."

The shop owners told us they're in no rush to open; they want everything to be done by the books.

Owner Rodney Pierson told us he worked in law enforcement for 20 years in both Sullivan County and Hawkins County.

One of his co-owners currently works for the Pentagon, and the other co-owner was once the Carter County Sheriff.

Pierson and his colleagues are leasing the property from Paul Bellamy, owner of a nearby furniture store.