Somerville 'recklessly permitted' gun shop near elementary school, lawsuit says

SOMERVILLE – A borough resident has gone to Superior Court to stop a gun shop from opening at the corner of Union and Gaston avenues less than a quarter mile from Van Derveer Elementary School.

Superior Court Judge Kevin Shanahan will rule March 7 on the complaint filed Jan. 31 by Megan Andrews that seeks an order not allowing a gun shop to open in the commercial building at the intersection in the same neighborhood as a drug store, bar, liquor store and a state Motor Vehicle Commission office.

Mayor Brian Gallagher, at Monday's Borough Council meeting, said he was not allowed to comment on the issue because it is pending litigation.

The Council did pass a resolution requesting the borough Planning Board to review the current zoning laws on gun stores and propose changes, if any, to Somerville's zoning ordinance.

Gallagher, who proposed a review of all zoning in the borough in his New Year's Day address, encouraged residents who came to the Borough Council meeting to attend Planning Board meetings and give their input.

"I understand the fear, the anger," Gallagher said Monday. "I absolutely get it."

The mayor said he lives in the neighborhood and "shares a concern" about the store.

In early January residents began to organize opposition to plans by High Caliber Ordinance to open in the commercial building at the intersection between Primo Pizza and Hairitage Hair Lounge at the site of a former gas station and bar.

Some Somerville residents are concerned about a gun shop opening about a quarter mile from the borough's only elementary school.
Some Somerville residents are concerned about a gun shop opening about a quarter mile from the borough's only elementary school.

They were alarmed at the prospect of a shop selling guns and ammunition so close to the borough's only elementary school. They also had concerns about safety, property values and community impact.

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In her complaint, Andrews charged that the borough "recklessly permitted" a gun shop in the neighborhood within 1,000 feet of a gun-free school zone.

Andrews, representing herself in the litigation, also alleges that the prospect of a gun shop so close to a school on a street where many students walk to class may also prompt parents to opt out of sending their children to public school and instead enroll them in private schools.

She also charges the borough failed to perform its due diligence by not confirming whether there is liability insurance "to protect the town and its citizens."

For the second consecutive Council meeting, parents told the elected officials why the borough should take action to prevent the store from opening.

"We're counting on you to do what is right," said Rebecca Scott, who added a gun shop opening so close to the school was "incredibly concerning."

Scott questioned the potential impact "on our children's already fragile mental health."

Another resident, Bronwyn Pucci, told the Council that she had heard real estate agents tell homeowners to "sell now" and businesses thinking about leaving town because of the gun shop. She also said that teachers and substitute teachers may not want to work at Van Derveer School.

Others expressed worries about data that show higher crime rates in the area of gun shops.

Others said that Somerville should follow Piscataway's example by not allowing a gun shop within a mile of a school.

"We do listen," Gallaghrer said. "I know you don't think so, but we do."

The mayor explained that the Borough Council and other municipal boards do not have the power to control what businesses can open in the county seat if the meet zoning regulations.

Gallagher said, however, that the borough can "create very specific zones for specific uses."

A change in the zoning would not affect the gun shop because it obtained its permission to open under existing zoning, the mayor explained.


Mike Deak is a reporter for To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on Somerville NJ gun shop near school challenged by lawsuit