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Newton City Council approves zoning rules for gun stores

Newton City Hall
Newton City HallSuzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Newton city councilors Wednesday night approved restrictive zoning rules for firearms businesses in the city that drastically limit where gun stores could open and impose strict control over their day-to-day operations.

The measure comes more than a month after a gun shop, Newton Firearms, prepared to open its doors at 709 Washington St. in Newtonville

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and all 24 city councilors proposed the zoning rules in an effort to prevent the store from opening at that location, which is within walking distance of schools, restaurants, and homes.

The zoning rules approved in a 23-to-1 vote by councilors covers firearms dealers, gunsmiths, and gun ranges, according to officials.

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The rules impose buffers between firearms businesses and residential areas, and away from places like schools, parks and playgrounds, libraries, and hospitals. A gun business would require a special permit from the City Council, giving officials authority over issues like operating hours and signage.

The zoning also limits firearms businesses to part of Route 9 in Chestnut Hill and an area near the corner of Rumford and Riverview avenues close to the Waltham line, the planning department has said. A third spot, along a part of North Street near Waltham, could potentially serve as a location for a gun business, but there are no existing buildings outside the buffer areas, according to the city.

Leonard Gentile, a councilor-at-large for Newton’s Ward 4, was the sole vote against the zoning measure. Gentile supports prohibiting firearms businesses in Newton and is among a group of councilors who have backed an outright ban. He said the zoning rules before councilors were insufficient.

“I’m going to vote against this tonight because we don’t have the ban, which... obviously gives us the greatest protection,” Gentile told colleagues. “And quite frankly, I don’t think that this restrictive zoning gives as much protection as we would like our constituents to think.”

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Fuller and several city officials have repeatedly warned that an outright ban would invite a court challenge on constitutional grounds.

Richard Lipof, the city council vice president, was among Newton councilors who backed the controls on firearms businesses.

“This is about the most restrictive gun [business] ordinance in the country, it’s going to be one of the top five. It is absolutely workable, defensible, and it’s about our whole city,” Lipof said. “It’s about looking at the city, and saying, here’s where it could go.’ "

The zoning rules will take effect 20 days after Fuller, who supports them, signs the measure. The zoning approved Wednesday is expected to apply retroactively to Newton Firearms, and the store will not be able to open at 709 Washington St., according to Ellen Ishkanian, a city spokeswoman.

The City Council is not yet done with reviewing local regulations for firearms businesses.

Gentile and a group of city councilors have filed for an outright ban on gun businesses in Newton. Fuller has said the public hearing for residents and others to speak up about the proposed ban is scheduled for Monday, June 21.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.