There will be no contentious hearing in Salem tonight on a proposal to open a gun shop in a neighborhood on the edge of downtown.
For that, you can thank both community activists who were quick to mobilize and the businessman who, facing widespread opposition, opted to withdraw, saying he’d never intended to alarm the neighbors.
Michael Beaulieu, a Salem businessman and former resident, who now lives in Rowley, had applied for a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals to sell guns from a commercial building he owns on Margin Street, in the city’s old Italian neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood with a mix of uses, commercial and residential, not far from the police station.
But neighbors — quite rightly, in our view — were dismayed.
The building is close to nearby homes, a private school and a playground. And while selling guns is perfectly legal, this is not the kind of merchandise people want to see for sale in the house next door or down the street. Beaulieu was probably right that people were not going to be coming in and out of there all day with guns, but in the end that is, of course, the goal of any gun store: to have people buy your merchandise. And if it were a successful business, then of course, people would be in the neighborhood carrying guns.
Many in this state are already wary of the proliferation of guns, particularly handguns and assault weapons that are not used for sport. But this is not a Second Amendment debate; the law allows residents to own and carry firearms with the proper licenses.
This concern has to do with where people exercise those rights. And we suspect that even most gun owners would prefer to have such businesses located outside of residential areas. Certainly, that was the case in Salem, where members of the Greater Endicott Neighborhood Association quickly got the word out, and opposition appeared to be strong.