Anti-gun bigotry on display in all its ugliness in fight over Massachusetts gun stores

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

After officials in Littleton, Massachusetts sold off an old mill that had been repurposed to house dozens of small businesses, including more than 80 federally licensed firearms dealers, earlier this year, many of the gun stores that lost their lease have been scrambling to find a new location to set up shop. But rather than welcoming new businesses and their tax dollars to town, localities have instead been erecting roadblocks in front of the retailers and putting their anti-2A bigotry on full display.

These efforts have received glowing coverage in the pages of the Boston Globe, whose reporters have tried to minimize the growing number of residents exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms while throwing shade at the Second Amendment itself. Take, for example, the Globe‘s recent reporting on the likely move of ten firearms retailers to an industrial park in Stow, Massachusetts, which unlike many other Boston suburbs has not taken steps to keep stores outside the city limits.

The fraught considerations in Stow, 20 miles west of Boston, reflect the suburban tension that has arisen in recent years between a small but growing contingency of Second Amendment enthusiasts and the majorityof locals, who favor strict gun control.

The Globe found at least six other municipalities, all in Middlesex or Norfolk counties, that enacted zoning restrictions on firearms businesses in the years before the Littleton controversy, either in response to a proposed gun shop or to preempt a proposal.

The share of Massachusetts residents 15 and older with permits to use firearms doubled from 2010 to 2020, to 13 percent of males and 4 percent of females, while the state’s overall population in that age group increased by 10 percent, according to a Globe analysis of USCensus Bureau and state gun licensing data.

Stow has a slightly larger prevalence of firearms license-holders: 22 percent of males and 6 percent of females. But they are still a clear minority.

“If you took a vote, it would not pass,” a longtime Stow resident said of Franklin’s efforts to bring the Littleton gun vendors to her town. “We know what kind of people and activity they brought,” she said. “We don’t want them here.”

“We don’t want your kind here” is outright bigotry, especially when we’re talking about people who are simply trying to exercise a fundamental civil right. It’s beyond depressing that the cradle of liberty has now devolved into a place where owning a gun or expressing support for the Second Amendment can make you Public Enemy #1.

One Littleton shop owner eying a move to New Hampshire said he’s experienced far more discrimination in Massachusetts for his Second Amendment beliefs than he ever has as a brown, Muslim immigrant.

Another vendor pleaded with the Globe not to print his name because his neighbors have already harassed his family after he expressed support for gun rights on Facebook.

Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners’ Action League, a prominent state gun rights group, called the local opposition to gun dealers “pure bigotry.”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a licensed firearm retailer in your town,” he said.

And yet its clear in the Globe‘s reporting who the heroes and villains of this story are supposed to be. Here’s how Globe reporter Sarah Ryley concluded her piece about the number of retailers potentially relocating to the industrial park in Stow.

A painter and a woodworker in the buildingtold the Globethat while they prefer not to share space with weapons purveyors, they recognize their right to operate.

But Colleen Pearce, a retired elementary school art teacher in Harvard who had planned to move her painting studio to the Stow mill, said she wouldn’t go there if guns were being built or sold out of the same building. The mass shooting drills she did with her young students were traumatizing, and she has had nightmares about failing to get them all to safety.

“I don’t want to go into a studio where I’m trying to create beautiful things and have a gun manufacturer that’s all about destroying, not just things, but humans,” Pearce said.

Pearce may make “beautiful things”, but I doubt many people are going to be able to protect themselves or their families with one of her paintings. Of course she has every right to operate her studio in a “gun-free” location if she wants, but her bigoted views (and those of other residents across the state) have led to the types of zoning restrictions that we’re seeing in places like Newton, Acton, and Littleton that infringe on the rights of FFLs to conduct their own business, as well as the rights of residents to acquire a firearm for self-defense or other lawful activities.

NIMBYs like Pearce pride themselves on their tolerance and acceptance of others, even as they put their own prejudice on display for all to see. I’m sure they believe they’re on the right side of this argument, but the truth is they’re fighting against the exercise of a fundamental civil right, which in my mind makes them no better than the bigots who engaged in Massive Resistance to school integration in the 1950s and 60s. They’re on the wrong side of this civil rights fight, and history will not look kindly on their oppressive acts against those who want to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.