All it took was a simple phone conversation to get a gun store owner to take down a sign advertising assault weapons.
Owner Pat Popolizio said he was simply trying to sell products he stocks at Taylor & Vadney Sporting Goods in Rotterdam, including the popular AR-15 rifle. Town resident Bob Burgess simply thought the sign advertising the semi-automatic gun was tasteless in wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, where a gunman used that type of weapon to kill 20 children and six adults last week.
After the two men talked briefly Tuesday, Popolizio agreed the sign could be construed as offensive during a period of national mourning and said he’d remove the sign through the holidays. He said he didn’t mean to offend anyone with the sign and understood how seeing it after such an awful tragedy could be unnerving.
“I’m sorry this happened,” he said. “I understand where [Burgess] was coming from 100 percent.”
Taylor & Vadney has a number of signs advertising various brands of weapons in the store’s front windows, which face Broadway at the bustling Five Corners intersection. But it was the Rock River Arms sign that drew Burgess’ ire.
Posted below the prominent Taylor & Vadney sign on the front of the building, the advertisement showed a black silhouette of the assault weapon with the red text “AR-15 in stock now!” The sign also had the words “home defense headquarters” printed beneath the gun image.
Burgess noticed the sign months ago and was never a big fan of it. His young daughter attends Schalmont school district’s Jefferson Elementary, located about a half-mile from the store. He said the Rock River Arms sign seemed offensive and poorly placed.
“The first time I saw it, it gave me chills,” he said.
But after the slaughter in Newtown, Conn., the sign took on a new, darker meaning for Burgess. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man who also killed his mother before turning a gun on himself, used a .223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 during the attack.
“Why does everybody who drives by this place have to be reminded of this?” Burgess asked prior to his conversation with the store owner. “That gun was used to murder 20 kids. Why does that have to be hanging there?”
Popolizio said the sign seemed to help bring business to the store and prior to hearing from Burgess, he hadn’t received any complaints. But he said he also feels compassion for the families of the shooting victims and feels it’s proper to take the sign down as they mourn.
“It’s out of respect.”