First published in the July 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
One crowd came to shop at the new gun store. The other wished its doors hadn’t opened.
The first crowd lined up down a Magnolia Boulevard sidewalk on Saturday, June 25, waiting for a new Gun World to host its grand opening. Some came to browse the wares of the dealership’s larger store, which had long operated out of a smaller building less than a mile away, while others hoped to win a rifle, handgun or firearm attachment in the day’s raffle.
But across Screenland Drive, the second crowd gathered. And for many of the Burbank residents who were part of the group, the store — and roughly a dozen others like it in the city — was an unwelcome addition.
In the wake of the mass shooting at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school, a group of local community members has renewed pressure on local and state officials to implement gun restrictions. The relatively high number of firearm dealers in Burbank — 14, city officials said in February — has attracted particular criticism, as the per-capita figure is significantly higher than those of neighboring cities.
Concerned residents have primarily targeted Gun World, which is largely phasing out its previous site because of its comparatively large size and proximity to Roosevelt Elementary School — which is roughly 1,000 feet away. But outspoken community members have said they want Burbank’s zoning code to limit the number and location of gun dealerships citywide.
“It’s too close for comfort,” said resident Judith Annozine, one of the dozens of people who protested last week. “I don’t like guns, but that’s beside the point. … This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s time for Burbank to really change its arcane laws.”
Simone McFarland, assistant director of community development and a city spokeswoman, declined to say this week how the school’s gun-free zone legally interacts with the presence of firearms at and around Gun World. That topic and others will be addressed, she added, during a public City Council meeting on July 26.
That’s when city department officials will present a package of options to restrict local gun dealerships. City staff members also said they have been working to determine if there are any connections between Burbank gun stores and criminal activity — such as if firearms purchased locally are later used in crimes.
Burbank officials have so far provided little indication whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest such a link, which they would need to show in order to implement any regulations. However, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that a gunman who killed seven people that year in an Isla Vista mass shooting had made purchases at Gun World, along with numerous non-Burbank gun dealerships.
Gun World did not respond to a request for comment this week, though recently the business said it is committed to the safety of its staff and the city. Previously, the store has ardently opposed state and federal gun restrictions, denouncing them as tyrannical.
Some protesters also expressed concern regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that ended a New York law restricting who can receive a permit for concealed carry. Similar restrictions in other states, including California, could also face challenges. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who represents Burbank and has authored several California gun control laws, said his Senate Bill 918 would specify qualifications for a concealed-carry permit. Those requirements would include examining an applicant’s criminal history.
“The gun supporters, they’re going to do everything they can to put guns in more hands, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep them out of the wrong hands,” said Portantino, who attended last weekend’s protest. “Long term, I think our side is right.”
Inside the new Gun World, customers bustled about, browsing handguns, rifles, body armor, gun bags and ammo. Some stopped at a booth to sign up to join a chapter of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association.
Burbank resident Alex Orozco, who stood in line waiting for Gun World to open last weekend, said the number of local gun stores doesn’t worry him. If anything, he believes their prevalence — and the access to firearms they provide — makes people more safe.
“I think the more guns, that means that more people are carrying and the safer I feel,” he said, “because the people who are buying guns … for the most part, they’re buying [them] legally, so I don’t worry about those people. The people who I worry about are the people who get guns illegally.”
A 2016 U.S. Department of Justice survey of prison inmates found that about 90% of those who were arrested with a firearm did not obtain the weapon through a retail source. About a quarter of those surveyed received the firearm through an individual, and about 43% of those surveyed said they received it illegally.
However, a 2022 survey from the same agency found that 77% of mass shootings involved at least one firearm the shooter had obtained legally. In more than 80% of K-12 mass shootings, according to the survey, the shooter had stolen guns from family members.
Burbank resident and protester Paulette Emerson, whose daughter attends a dance studio across the street from Gun World, said she believes a good compromise would be to allow gun dealerships, but only in areas away from schools. The threat the current placement of gun stores poses, she argued, is both practical and symbolic.
“The only reason Gun World is allowed to have their shop not even a block away from a dance school or a massage parlor … is because Burbank zoning allows it, and Burbank should really reconsider this,” Emerson said.
“As a nation of guns, you have people who do not even want to come here because we have guns,” she added. “Is that what we, as a nation, want to be known for? And further, is that what Burbank wants to be known for? I don’t think so.”
— Andres de Ocampo contributed to this report.