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Should Newton impose zoning regulations on gun shops?

Read two views and vote in our online poll.


Laura Towvim

Co-Founder, Stop Gun Stores in Newton

Laura Towvim

When Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders in 2012, my son was in kindergarten. I will never forget that day, nor will I forget the next time I entered my son’s classroom. I didn’t search for his cubby or his artwork on the wall. Instead, I looked to see how many kids would fit into the bathroom.

I have been fighting for state and federal gun control policies ever since. Massachusetts has some of the country’s strictest gun laws, and correspondingly, the lowest rate of gun violence. But how can my children hold onto the hope of the safety those laws provide if they have to walk past a gun store to get to school?


Newton residents are outraged that a gun store might open within one mile of six schools and a block from a popular family ice cream restaurant, and rightfully so. While Newton consistently ranks as one of America’s safest cities, studies demonstrate that more guns means more gun deaths through homicide, suicide, and accidents — especially for gun owners. Although people buy firearms seeking personal protection, one study found gun owners were nine times more likely to die from suicide. Other studies show that household gun ownership puts family members at a higher risk of being killed through firearms murders or unintentional shootings.

Creating zoning restrictions that keep gun stores away from schools, houses of worship, community centers, and residences is a reasonable approach that does not impede the constitutionally protected — but not unlimited — right to possess firearms. At least eight gun shops are within a 30-minute drive of Newton’s city hall, with one only 11 minutes away.

Living with gun violence is not inevitable or simply a price we have to pay. Newton residents have spoken loudly in opposition to gun stores, demonstrated by the 9,200 petition signatures and a flood of e-mails to city councilors. We don’t have to be complicit in a culture that glorifies gun ownership while ignoring its deadly consequences. Indeed, if we value safety, we must act to limit gun stores in our city and then fight for state and federal policy changes to address our country’s deadly gun violence crisis.



Tom Mountain

Newton resident, vice chair of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee

Tom Mountain

The Second Amendment is clear, concise, and far from ambiguous: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Our fundamental right to self-defense is sacrosanct, as old as the country itself. The Bill of Rights is a constant. It can not be diluted or tampered with to suit the prevailing political winds over generations.

Citizens have a constitutional right to own and purchase firearms to protect their person and property, which means federal, state, and local governments cannot impose restrictions, obstacles, or regulations to prevent people from owning guns or make it difficult to procure them.

Since the Colonial era the buying and selling of firearms in any municipality in the Commonwealth was, until recently, routine, with gun shops (and gunsmiths) common. Over time politicians and anti-gun advocacy groups have sought to restrict them, with very limited success. Nevertheless, they keep trying.

Especially in Newton.

No city council can impose its will on its citizens by effectively banning gun shops from within its boundaries. Yet that is precisely what politicians in Newton are attempting to do by circumventing existing city zoning regulations to keep out gun shops.


In this they will inevitably fail. In a contest between the City Council and the Constitution, the Constitution wins every time.

Besides, gun shops are carefully regulated and cannot sell a firearm to anyone who has not cleared a state criminal background check and been issued a license by the local police department. That’s why you’ll rarely see unsavory characters enter a gun shop — they know they can’t buy a gun.

Regardless, a city or town cannot pick and choose which part of the Constitution to obey, and which to defy. The Second Amendment is the law of the land, which means no municipality has the legal authority to prevent its law-abiding citizens from owning or buying a gun. Newton, Massachusetts, can no more restrict a gun shop than Newton, New Hampshire.

The rights embodied in our Constitution apply equally to every community, to every citizen in our nation. And that includes Newton.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.

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