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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear considers himself “a Second Amendment guy, but I also know and respect guns, and if you’ve got young children in the house…any and all guns should be locked up and not accessible to kids, period.”

That warning was on the mayor’s mind this past Saturday, 24 hours after the Noblesville West Middle School shooting, when he realized Hoosier Armory was having its grand opening at 10th and Logan streets just a block off the city’s downtown square, complete with a tent to encourage registration and membership in the NRA.

“I did approach the owner and I just told him that, ‘No one expected this but you’re hurting your business, in my opinion, strongly, and you’re hurting our city,’ and I asked them to maybe just think about it and take the tent down, and I was asked to leave. And with those types of attitudes, those are very difficult but something needs to happen.

“The NRA needs to realize that they have a place in this to protect gun owners but they also have to make sure that gun owners are responsible.

“I was not happy that I was asked to leave.”

Clara Lawson, a 17-year-old junior at Noblesville High School where middle school children were reunited with their parents after the shootings, spread word of the Hoosier Armory protest through social media Saturday morning and spent four hours carrying signs with friends outside the store.

“We’re not trying to take away your guns. We understand that’s a right and I understand that, too,” she said. “I was protesting the NRA booth, not the Hoosier Armory, because I understand that’s their store, they’re fine if they’re there, that’s their right, but I thought it was really inappropriate that the NRA booth would be there when they saw what had happened the day before but they still set up and they continued what they were doing right across the town from a tragedy.”

During its recent national conference in Dallas, NRA leaders called for improved school safety, the arming of staff and teachers and additional school resource officers on patrol.

The NRA will hold its 2019 national convention in Indianapolis.

Hoosier Armory’s website reads, in part, that it’s a family owned business with a mission to sell firearms at a fair price and, “to promote the free exercise of our Second Amendment rights, to educate the community regarding the enjoyable, safe, and responsible use of firearms.”

“I think that gun control shouldn’t be a conservative versus liberal idea,” said Clara. “I think it’s kind of a common sense thing because it’s all of us. We’re all involved.

“We can be safe and people can keep their guns.”

The teenager and the mayor would like to explore issues with the store owner such as gun locks, gun safes and smart gun technology that all promote firearms safety and protect constitutional rights.

“Hopefully they learned a lesson,” said Ditslear, a Republican and grandfather to eight children. “I’ve not talked to them. Again, I was asked to leave, so I won’t go in there until I’m asked to come back.”

Hoosier Armory’s managing partner, Rich Ripple, issued the following statement concerning the incident and the store’s decision to move forward with its grand opening:

Hello everyone. I am a partner at Hoosier Armory. Firearms are our passion and this business lets my partners and I share that passion with fellow shooters.

After the school shooting, my partners and I had a long, heartfelt discussion about what to do about our grand opening on Saturday. If anyone thinks we made the decision to continue with something we had been planning for months without a lot of concern and anxiety, you are mistaken. This was a hard decision for us. We feel horrible for those injured in the shooting. We thank God for the fact that no one was killed. At the same time, we are getting tired of gun owners and the NRA being blamed for every shooting that occurs in this country. For this reason, we decided to continue with our plans.

Some members of the team from the NRA had flown in the night before to attend our grand opening. They had time and money invested in the visit and it had been planned months ago. They offered to stand down but we asked them to set up anyways. They made an offer to not accept new registrations at their booth and to only answer questions about what the NRA does and we accepted that offer. No new NRA members were registered that day.

This has been a painful few days for us here at Hoosier Armory. The mayor of Noblesville literally lied about his visit to the shop. He was never asked to leave and he ended the conversation mid-stream and left without allowing us to plead our case. In other words, he told us his feelings about the situation and then left to join the protesters because the news media had arrived.

We know we will take a hit on this, our facebook page is already lighting up with bad reviews from people who have never been in the shop and don’t know what we are all about. No news media has mentioned any of our charitable activities involving helping injured police officers and helping with firearm suicide prevention.

I want you all to know, we are devastated every time there is a shooting like the one in Noblesville. My partners have kids and grandkids so we know the concerns of parents everywhere. However, we also see the black eyes given to legal law abiding gun owners everytime something like this happens, We all know that in reality, gun owners are the most law abiding group of people out there. We see the NRA villainized for school shootings when they offer more ideas to prevent them than our politicians ever do.

I will say that the majority of gun owners have supported us so far through this. I hope we can count on all of you.

Many thanks and God bless.