Residents are fired up about a gun shop’s plan to open in East Dedham.
More than 6,000 people signed an online petition against J&J Arms’ plan to open at 224 Bussey St., saying the location was too close to a neighborhood park and within .2 miles of three public schools.
“It is unconscionable, in an era where our children are forced to practice ‘lock down’ drills designed to train them how to protect themselves from armed intruders, to locate a gun shop anywhere in the vicinity of schools,” the petition reads.
A counter online petition, organized by the gun shop’s attorney, Andrew Couture, expressing support for J&J Arms and demanding that the town allow it open “without harassment,” has garnered more than 1,100 signatures.
About 200 people attended a selectmen-sponsored “listening session” on Sept. 5 to update the community about the plan and most spoke out against the shop — either because of the location or because of opposition to guns being sold anywhere in town, according to town planner Jeremy Rosenberger.
Rosenberger said the town is limited in what it can do, though, because a gun shop is an allowed use under Dedham’s zoning rules.
However, he said, the shop needs permission from Dedham Police Chief Michael D’entremont to open, as well as a local building permit.
In response to the public outcry, officials are drafting a proposed zoning amendment to restrict where gun shops would be allowed to do business in town in the future, Rosenberger said. Any zoning changes would require Town Meeting approval and most likely would not be retroactive, he said.
Currently, no businesses in town sell guns, Rosenberger said. Dick’s Sporting Goods and AAA Police Supply, both located on Route 1, used to sell firearms but have stopped, he said.
J&J Arms is owned by Dedham resident Joshua Cruz, who received a federal license to sell firearms in June. Cruz said in a telephone interview that he will continue to pursue the venture, his first gun shop, despite the opposition and hate mail.
“I expected some backlash but not what I’ve been receiving,” Cruz said. “I’ve never been hated; I consider myself a very likeable person. I feel like people are trying to make me feel like I did something wrong, when I followed all the rules.”
Cruz said he could not discuss whether he was looking for another location for his shop. The owner of the 224 Bussey St. property, JM Realty/River Limited Partnership, could not be reached for comment.
The space in East Dedham is in the village business district and has been vacant for a while, Rosenberger said.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.