By JOHN HOWELL Faced with what they believe is best for Warwick Neck or what the law allows, the Board of Public Safety landed on the side of the law Tuesday night and unanimously approved a permit for the sale of guns from Anchor Art & Antiques at 316
Faced with what they believe is best for Warwick Neck or what the law allows, the Board of Public Safety landed on the side of the law Tuesday night and unanimously approved a permit for the sale of guns from Anchor Art & Antiques at 316 Warwick Neck Ave.
The three-member board was not alone in thinking the store, diagonally across from a day care and down the road from Warwick Neck Elementary, is the wrong place for the sale of guns. The issue is not about guns, but location, said Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who has a permit to carry a gun, is a gun instructor and a member of the National Rifle Association. Ladouceur was one of two people to appear in person before the board, which met in the community room of the department. The meeting was simultaneously conducted over Zoom with most of those choosing to speak defending James Martin, a retired Cranston police officer and owner of the store.
From the outset of the hearing, when Col. Brad Connor detailed the measures Martin followed to obtain a Class 1 license from ATF and how he had met city regulations, it was apparent the board had no wiggle room unless they were prepared for a legal fight they had little chance of winning.
That wasn’t the case when the board considered Martin’s application on April 27. At that hearing, Martin said he had been told he had filed all the necessary paper work. Missing, however, was his application for a $50 city permit for gun sales. Those opposed to the sale of guns from the shop reasoned that because Martin didn’t have local approval prior to seeking a license from the ATF, his license is invalid.
Connor said that upon further examination of department records, Martin filed the city application last fall and that he had “checked off all the boxes and crossed the Ts.” Connor blamed the confusion on the pandemic and the change in the department’s administration as Col. Rick Rathbun retired and he assumed command.
Thomas McGovern, chair of the board, cited the reasons why he feels this is not the place for the sale of guns. He listed the proximity to the day care and the school, that there is no off-street parking at the store and that the building is small. He thought there could be ways the city could control the operation through its sign ordinance and hours of operation. He inquired whether Martin ceased the sale of weapons following the April board meeting, as requested when the matter was continued. Martin said he had. But McGovern cautioned the board could still impose a fine as Martin had sold guns without a city license.
Neck resident Denise Grady, who said she has a gun permit, feared the store could be broken into and guns and ammunition taken, leading to a mass killing. “I think it is so unsafe,” she said.
Ladouceur agreed, calling D&L Gun on West Shore Road “a fortress” compared to Martin’s store. He said he is the cosponsor of legislation docketed by Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi to enact conditions regulating gun sales in the city, including the proximity to schools. He said he is “pro-business.” He feels regulations would serve to protect the interests of other businesses, such as child day cares that could be adversely impacted.
Alan DeFunchio and his girlfriend, Joyce Catelli, called Martin responsible, a reasonable person and a family man. They said Martin has taken the steps to secure the building including the installation of cameras, alarms and window bars.
Charles Calenda, attorney for Martin, said state law regulates gun sales and that Martin had fulfilled all the requirements.
Board member Charles Benson expressed his frustration. He said the board is in agreement that this is not a good location for a gun store and the board “is being asked to overturn zoning laws which we have no control over.”
In an interview this spring, Martin was asked why he wanted to sell guns at the quaint store.
He said in the 4½ years he’s run Anchor Art & Antiques, he hasn’t received much support from the community and that following the election he felt it was a product that would bring people in. He started looking at adding guns in October 2020.
“I felt it was a good opportunity given the way things were going in the country,” he said.
Martin said Wednesday that he would be open today. He said he planned to be open “on afternoons a few days a week.”
He questioned why McGovern should request the store be closed when kids are walking to and from school when Warwick Neck Elementary is a half-mile away and they are not requesting the same of D&L Gun, which is less than a block away from Robertson School.
Martin was resentful the board did not act at the meeting immediately following the April hearing as it had the information it needed.
“They held me up for nine weeks and that’s not right,” he said.