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NRA May Open Times Square Store

May 19, 2000

NEW YORK (AP)_ The theme restaurants in Times Square might be getting a new neighbor _ the National Rifle Association.

``More Americans participate in shooting sports than in basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer and other sports,″ NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a news conference announcing a theme restaurant-store at the group’s annual convention in Charlotte, N.C.

NRASports will offer virtual-reality trap and skeet shooting, outdoor clothing and hunting accessories. It will also feature a restaurant _ The N.R.A. Grille_ which will serve wild game. But it won’t sell guns.

If NRASports opens _ LaPierre said no lease has been signed and he did not know when the store would open _ it will pit itself against a slew of theme restaurants and stores in the Time Square area. Besides ESPNZone, there’s also Disney store, the All-Star Cafe and the WWF store. Not far away is a Harley Davidson restaurant, Mars 2112, Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe.

``Anyone can open a restaurant here, and as long as it is a legal establishment we would certainly seek to make sure they are prosperous,″ said Brendan Sexton, the president of the Times Square Business Improvement district.

But Sexton expressed some concern.

``There was a time when Times Square was associated with a climate of violence and weapons. That culture and symbolism is something that we have been extremely glad to get away from,″ Sexton said.

To many the idea of opening an NRA outlet in the heart of New York City seems a bit unusual.

``What? Do you have to shoot at a menu to pick your meal?″ said Carlos Azaceta, an advertising executive from Hoboken, N.J.

But to others, the idea seemed to fit in quite well in the atmosphere of political slugfests, lunatic cab drivers, and stinking subway cars the city is best known for.

``I don’t know quite how well this is going to work. But hey, this is New York. Anything goes,″ said Joyce Keller, a computer programmer from Manhattan.

John Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, said that the proposal shows the NRA is ``bizarrely out of sync″ with mainstream America.

``What will their sign say, ‘Over a Million Killed’?″ he said.

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