Riverhead Gun Shop Proposal Draws Ire

Downtown Riverhead
Riverhead BID iMain Street
Independent/Barbara Lassen

Arguments over a proposed zoning change that would restrict the location of gun shops sparked a lengthy, heated debate during the Riverhead Town Board meeting on June 21, when more than 20 people spoke passionately about their support or disproval of the idea.

Residents spoke out during a public hearing on the proposed amendment to town zoning rules prohibiting firearm businesses from operating in downtown Riverhead.

“(The amendment) is intended to define firearm business uses and set forth zoning use districts that certain firearm businesses will be permitted in,” said Erik Howard, the town attorney.

The debate came as guns are an especially hot topic following recent mass shootings in a Buffalo supermarket and Texas elementary school.

Supporters said they backed the idea based on the threat of air pollution, the reputation of the town and gun violence. Many residents believe this amendment would limit gun violence in Riverhead.

“Riverhead has carefully crafted parameters for cannabis sales and use,” said Cindy Clifford, a Riverhead resident, “it seems reasonable to establish similar limitations for firearm business uses.”

Speakers against the amendment included Charles Sclafanim who said over Zoom that the amendment would force a separation between gun shops and gun ranges, something he says makes no sense at all.

“It’s like making a cake without icing,” said Sclafani.

Joseph Oliver, owner of JJ Armory is waiting on pending approval for his retail storefront. If the amendment goes through, his business will not be approved.

“To put this change in effect would mess me up pretty badly,” said Oliver, a volunteer EMS who has helped the Riverhead Police Department with school shooting training. “Gun violence hits home for me, this is my community. Nothing is perfect, these terrible monsters that commit these crimes need to be dealt with, but it’s not everybody.”

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