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Supervisor says Town Board unlikely to move forward at this time with legislation to restrict where retail gun stores can operate

The Riverhead Town Board appears unwilling to move forward with proposed legislation that would restrict where retail gun stores can operate in downtown, at least as the pending change was first written.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar addressed the topic in response to a question raised by a resident at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

“None of the board members have indicated they want to move it forward,” said Ms. Aguiar, a retired NYPD sergeant. “It is an open process. At the moment, I don’t see it going forward unless any other member wants to put it forward.”

Kathy McGraw of Northville, speaking via Zoom, asked the board for an update following the contentious public hearing that was held last month.

“There’s a real interest in this town for zoning for firearms business,” Ms. McGraw said. “And it seems to me that as Town Board members your job is to listen to the people you represent.”

There’s currently no part of the code that specifically addresses firearms facilities. The proposal discussed at the June public hearing would have established zoning districts where a retail firearm business or firing range can operate, specifically excluding the downtown area as the town continues to pursue revitalization efforts.

Ms. McGraw cited the “proliferation of guns in this country and the endless mass shootings” as reason the Town Board should act at this time.

“Don’t you think it’s time to begin to at least address the issue of something as straightforward and basic as firearms business zoning?” she asked. “It doesn’t seem like a big step.”

Ms. Aguiar said she disagreed that “using a national issue with all these shootings” should factor into town’s decision making process on the legislation and said no amount of laws can prevent guns from entering the hands of the wrong people.

“They are in the hands of criminals as a result of defunding the police, which aids it, and they’re in the hands of some of the mentally disabled individuals,” the supervisor said, adding that guns are often brought into New York via I-95.

“The guns are in the wrong hands and having all these legislations are not going to stop the shootings,” she said.

New York currently has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a “landmark legislative package” last month to strengthen those laws in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. Data shows states with stricter gun laws generally have lower firearms mortality rates.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, who is also a retired police officer, said the firearms restriction was briefly discussed at a code revision committee meeting Monday. He said he feels it’s something that should be addressed, but the original draft needs some adjustments.

“I will still work on this and try to push this forward,” Mr. Hubbard said. “Whether it has board support or not, that’s up to the board.”

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said he felt the proposed draft was “too far-reaching” and that an overlay district might have worked to limit potential firearms stores near the new Town Square planned for the riverfront.

At this time, there’s a proposal pending from  firearms retailer Niosi Firearms Development to relocate to Elton Street from Westhampton. In addition, Joseph Oliver of Riverhead, who spoke at the public hearing, said he is currently seeking to open a storefront off Main Street for his gun business, JJ Armory.