Newton, Massachusetts has contemplated changing the town’s zoning laws to ban Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) from setting up shop there. But now they’re putting an outright ban on hold.
The Boston Globe reports that the town’s Planning & Zoning Committee recommended not moving forward with the changes. The city council took the Committee’s advice and voted 21-3 on Monday to strike down the proposed zoning changes out of fear of a potential court battle. They realized gun owners and businesses could easily argue the ban was an infringement upon their Second Amendment rights.
This is all a reaction, you may remember, to the prospect of a new gun store opening up in Newton’s quaint downtown area. The prospect of an arms dealer in their little town didn’t go over well with many of the locals.
Joseph Kammouj wants to open a shop on Washington Street in downtown Newton where a variety of shops are located including The Great Remedies marijuana dispensary. A sign was posted on a door at 709 Washington street, announcing the opening of Newton Firearms.
Almost immediately Newton residents started a petition to prevent the business opening in their town. The petition, which has more than 6,000 signatures so far, declares the presence of a gun store in Newton “Would undermine our reputation as a welcoming and progressive city.”
That prompted a proposal to ban gun stores in Newton outright.
Duke University Law Professor Darrell Miller, however, said an outright ban would almost guarantee the city would be involved in a court battle.
“If you end up banning gun stores by law from the region, somebody is going to raise a Second Amendment issue,” Miller told the Globe in June. “And an issue that hasn’t been adjudicated, will be adjudicated on that basis.”
City attorney Alissa Giuliani shared similar concerns in a memo to council members.
“Put bluntly, when considering the risks of litigation in the name of fighting the good fight, the real risk here is that the City’s ability to regulate gun stores could be diminished, if not removed entirely, and that decision would impact every community in the country,” Giuliani wrote.
The city council’s vote comes after they passed new requirements for gun-related businesses. In order to open a gun shop, range, or offer gunsmithing services, the business has to apply for a special permit to be voted on by the council. The council also designated specific zoning locations where FFLs and ranges can establish their business.
Although the council voted down the zoning changes, two members, Emily Norton of Ward 2 and Leonard Gentile of Ward 4, still want an outright ban. They’ve offered an amendment to the city’s ordinances that would prohibit the sale and manufacturing of firearms would be prohibited in Newton.
Norton and Gentile’s amendment is currently making its way through the City Council’s Programs & Services and Finance committees. The amendment is expected to come back before the council later this fall. Stay tuned.