Council Subcommittee Looks at Areas of Town Where Firearms Stores Could Operate

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Firearm stores would be allowed in the same areas where marijuana dispensaries and adult stores can go in Watertown under the proposal recommended by a Town Council subcommittee.

On Monday night, the Economic Development and Planning Committee heard the language drafted by Town administrators for limiting areas where gun dealers and related businesses could go in Watertown. Several other communities in the area have looked at firearms store regulations, including Newton where elected officials looked at a firearms store ban but instead voted to restrict them to a few spots in the city. Councilors in Watertown thought it was a good time to look at the Town’s zoning regarding such shops.

“The thought process we had, from a staff perspective, is to keep this pretty simple,” said Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon. “I don’t think we have any existing proposals for gun-related businesses in town, but several Councilors indicated they want to regulate it. We do want to keep in front of it, and we also didn’t want to go down the route of being over restrictive and precluding it from being allowed in town and then running afoul of the issue of to what extent it is or isn’t protected, and those types of things.”

Firearms businesses would be allowed in certain zones after getting a special permit approved by the Planning or Zoning Board, depending on the zone. A firearms business would be a retail or wholesale operation involved in the purchase or sale of firearms, ammunition, and/or firearm accessories, including: repairing, altering, cleaning, polishing, engraving, blueing, or performing any mechanical operations on a firearm, Magoon said. 

The zones where firearm dealers would be allowed include the major business areas, and those zoned for industrial uses. This includes the Central Business District in Watertown Square; the Limited Business districts such as parts of Main Street, Mt. Auburn Street and Galen Street; and the Industrial 1, 2 and 3 districts (mostly in the East End along Arsenal Street). Other areas include the Pleasant Street Corridor District (PSCD), and the Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD) on the east end of Arsenal Street.

The proposed restrictions within those areas include properties within 500 feet of existing public or private schools, and/or within 500 feet of a public park, playground or areas that are part of the Charles River Reservation. Also, no firearm business can be located within 500 feet of another such business.

With these rules, there would be areas where a firearms store could go on parts of Arsenal Street, North Beacon Street, Pleasant Street, Galen Street, and in Watertown Square.

The Committee discussed whether it preferred to have firearms businesses in high visibility locations, such as a major roadway, or on less frequented streets. Magoon said those types of businesses would likely cater to people from a wide area who would know about the store, rather than just happening upon it. Councilor Lisa Feltner said she was thinking the opposite, since there is little transition between commercial or industrial areas and residential areas in Watertown.

Councilor Vincent Piccirilli noted that the map used by Magoon to show the areas where firearm stores could go, appears to be out of date. He noted that the Council is updating the Open Space Plan and he believes there are more areas along the Charles River that belong to the state — particularly west of Watertown Square. Magoon said he would update the map.

The Watertown Greenway, the path that runs along the former railroad track behind Target and extends to the Cambridge line, is another area not included in the restrictions, Feltner said.

Magoon said he thinks it is important not to be too restrictive, so that there are essentially no places where a firearms business could go.

Councilor Anthony Donato said he believes it is important to have the map be the same as other restricted uses, such as marijuana dispensaries.

“Following what we are trying to do with cannabis, someone trying to challenge (the Town’s firearms zoning) might have a steeper hill to climb if we can show we are treating these things similarly,” Donato said.

Councilor Tony Palomba wondered what would happen if there was an antique store that had an antique gun which did not operate anymore.

“I was thinking of other antique weapons, such as knives and swords,” Palomba said. “Is there any way to have an exception (for guns), such as if they are not functioning?”

Magoon said he thinks under the current rules the antique store owner would have to get a firearms dealer license, but there may be a way to create an exception. If the gun is inoperable, Piccirilli said, he believes it would not fall under the definition of a firearm.

Councilor John Gannon, who worked as municipal attorney with many communities, said that he believes there are state regulations and the Town could not make rules that go against the state’s. He suggested having the Town’s law firm, KP Law, look into the issue before adding an exception to the proposal.

The Economic Development and Planning Committee voted 2-0 to send the recommended zoning changes to the full Town Council, which would then send the proposal to the Planning Board before it comes back to the Council for final approval.

17 thoughts on “Council Subcommittee Looks at Areas of Town Where Firearms Stores Could Operate

  1. The Council doesn’t have subcommittees; it has committees. Only committees can have subcommittees. Pet peeve for 40+ years! 😉

  2. And what exactly do they hope to accomplish with this feel good nonsense? Send a message? Save lives? Spare children the trauma and fright of passing by a gun store? I can already see and hear all the neighborhood ‘Karens’ screaming, shrieking and running around like their hair is on fire because ‘Ermahgerd!… we can’t allow A GUN STORE near a school, park, playground or daycare center!!!!

    This town just keeps on spiraling down the drain to lunacy.

    • Exactly… The town is 4 sqaure miles. What difference does it make. You already have to jump through whoops to purchase a fire arm, you need to get permit to carry, and FID card to possess at home. All of which needs to go through the Police Department.
      Before they give you a License to Carry, they ask why you need it….. Funny, they don’t ask you why you need any other RIGHT !!!
      This is more woke nonsense

    • Alan, please don’t use the word “Karen.”

      If you look up definitions on the Web, most refer to a “Karen” being a complaining WHITE woman. That is, it’s an anti-White term.

      See the below links for example. I could show you many more examples. Please don’t fall into the trap of using it. Karen is a nice woman’s name. Let’s not ruin it.

  3. KP Law. Haha! Sounds like one of these places where you can get legal advice for $49.95! And all along I thought we had representation from the esteemed firm of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe!

    • Yeah they are only a huge law firm providing legal services to about 1/3 of the communities in Massachusetts. Maybe you should inform yourself before making random comments.

    • At one time there used to be Ivanhoes on Main St. next to Riccis Liquors, but they relocated to Billerica sometime in the mid 80’s.

      As far the town having to allow gun stores at all, ask yourself this: Do you (would you), want the town to create a Constitutional second amendment legal challenge that could potentially be heard by the Supreme Court?

      That’s why Newton opted to regulate gun stores via zoning than by an outright ban. In fact a well known national gun control group urged them NOT to implement an outright ban. They knew what the risks and implications were.

      Personally, I wish Newton HAD passed an outright ban. Currently we have one of the most second amendment friendly Supreme Courts we’ll ever see. Had Newton gone through with an outright ban, and if the SCOTUS took up the case, more than likely it would have resulted in putting existing gun control laws at risk of being challenged and ruled unconstitutional.

  4. If the visibility of firearms in Watertown are really so bad for the public:

    Why allow Watertown police (and State Police in Watertown) to possess and display them on their waists?

    Why allow firearms magazines to be sold in Watertown stores?

    Why allow anyone except Watertown police to get a firearms permit?

    Why allow a Watertown store such as Target to sell toy firearms or violent games?

    Why allow Watertown stores to sell movies (DVDs) that have firearms in them?

    Why not ban squirt guns and other toys (such as slingshots) entirely?

    Why not tell Watertown students to not join the armed forces or police where they will be required to carry and actually use firearms?

    Why allow Watertown banks to have guards with guns?

    Why not remove children from Watertown homes that have guns?

  5. Yeah Paul, that always bugged me too. The so called sub-committees are 3 people. Can’t get much smaller. I think they consider the Council a Committee as in Committee of the Whole, so they use the wrong term for Committees and call them sub-committees.

  6. With all of the challenges…covid, schools, traffic, ugly development and potholes…confronting Watertown THIS is the issue we need to waste time and energy? Let move on.

  7. Massachusetts already has quite a few gun stores. With everything we are dealing with why do we need a local gun store? I am opposed to having any local gun stores. Let’s invest in our schools, roads, parks, elderly, & mental health now.

  8. I love it: Magoon says “Let’s not be too restrictive”. That’s his answer to everything that relates to any business coming into Watertown. He’s the head planner and doesn’t even use an current map to make a proposal to the Council. Zone the gun shops carefully and restrictively and be done with it. We don’t need a gun shop on every corner just like we don’t need a weed store on every corner.

    Then, let’s please hire a new manager who will get rid of the tw0-bit employees we’ve had for far too long. We desperately need planning for the 21st C.

  9. Some of you may be willing to give up your second amendment rights but, I for one, will not. With crime on the increase because many criminals are not prosecuted for thefts, break-ins, shoplifting and breaking drug laws and many police departments being defunded, many people feel a need to have a firearm to protect their families. Why should Watertown residents have to go elsewhere to purchase a firearm if they desire? With the town’s master plan they created mixed use zones where businesses are located on the ground levels and apartments above. I don’t see anyone moving into the ground level spaces on Arsenal Street or Pleasant St. They all seem to be vacant and may be empty for a long time as they are not enticing as there are limited parking spaces for customers. If a gun store wanted to go in there, that would be beneficial to residents who want one close by for their needs rather than have unrented spaces all over town. The woke crowd always wants to put their demands above the rest of the populace. Wake up and leave the rest of us alone or go to some deserted island where you can control everything you want. The government is slowly chiseling away at all of our rights like a lobster in a slow boiling pot and people aren’t seeing this.

    • What part of this article says you lose your rights? From what I tread it looks like they are going to zone similar to the weed shops which is well balanced IMO. I feel like this is another over reaction given our(Watertown’s) history of Not restricting businesses ( which many believe is them losing their rights to a balanced town and quality of life). Let’s start looking into a balance of quality and quantity. And leave the drama to the politicians please.

    • Where does the Second Amendment say a word about the “right to sell arms”?

      I’ll wait…

      And it would be nice for a “concerned citizen” not to hide in anonymity.

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