I live in Oak Park, three-quarters of a block from an elementary school and just over a block from a Montessori pre-school. And soon, I’m told, I will live even closer than that to a gun shop.
I’m not writing to debate Second Amendment rights. I just want to ask why, in a village that has had endless discussions about where beauty supplies can be sold and how and when restaurants can serve liquor, a gun shop was allowed to obtain a business license without any input from the community as though it were like any other retail business.
Because a gun shop is not just any other retail business. A gun shop will bring dangerous weapons and dangerous people into our neighborhood. I’m sure that Mr. Delafuente intends to follow all applicable laws in providing background checks and waiting periods, but that is small comfort to those of us who live nearby. The fact is that there will be firearms on-site, when his customers’ orders come in, and his customers will be leaving his shop with guns in hand. It doesn’t take much to realize that this is going to attract the attention of less law-abiding citizens who would like to get their hands on those guns.
We who live near Roosevelt Road have put up with a lot over the last few years. The street has been under construction for nearly three years, resulting in ongoing noise, traffic snarls, and torn-up sidewalks. But we thought it would all be worth it when it was finished because we were promised a revitalized Roosevelt, “a more pedestrian-friendly, landscaped and vibrant commercial corridor,” a direct quote from the Oak Park Plan Commission’s website. And while our partners in Berwyn have brought in a Mediterranean restaurant, a movie memorabilia shop, and other businesses that clearly fit the vision for this revitalization, Oak Park has brought in a cash-for-gold store and a gun shop.
It’s baffling to me that businesses like this are legally permitted to open up shop next to a heavily residential area, so close to our elementary schools and preschools. We know that the main reasons families move to Oak Park are our safe neighborhoods and good schools, and a gun shop is really not going to support that. If I were looking to move into Oak Park, I sure wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a store selling firearms. Yet soon I will be near one, whether I like it or not.
From what I’ve been told, it’s probably too late for residents to stop this particular gun shop, but we need to do more to protect our neighborhoods in the future, especially as Roosevelt continues to develop. I urge the Oak Park Board of Trustees to take another look at our zoning laws for this area, which offer little protection, and to put ordinances in place to keep businesses that sell weapons away from our schools and our homes. The board should also consider tax incentives for new businesses so we can keep up our side of the bargain that was struck with our neighboring towns.
While I do not feel safe with a gun shop around the corner, I do feel safe in saying that a gun shop does not contribute to the image that most Oak Parkers would like for their neighborhoods.