Judge Turns Away Anti-Gunners' Attempt to Block NJ Gun Shop From Opening Its Doors

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

After months of needless delays, High Caliber Ordnance in Somerville, New Jersey may soon be officially open for business thanks to a judge's decision. Though the store had already received all of the zoning permits necessary from town officials, two residents sued to block the store from opening. Megan Andrews and Caroline Flamos filed a lawsuit against Somerville, High Caliber Ordnance the owner of the strip mall where the gun shop is located, audaciously arguing the High Caliber's location will cause property values to plunge and bizarrely asserting that a school located about one-third of a mile away will see a decline in enrollment, with yanking their kids out of class over "concerns about their physical safety and psychological health."

Attorney Daniel Schmutter, who's representing the gun store owner, described the lawsuit as an "act of hateful prejudice" designed "purely to harass a lawful, constitutionally protected business, in the hope of driving them into bankruptcy or otherwise making them go away," and last week a hearing was held to determine the future of the litigation. Now the judge has issued his decision, and the anti-gun Karens can't be pleased by the result.

Judge Kevin Shanahan dismissed the lawsuit seeking to stop High Caliber Ordnance from opening in the strip mall between Primo Pizza and Hairitage Hair Lounge

... The gun shop had become one of the most controversial issues in Somerville in recent years with residents attending meetings of the Borough Council, Planning Board and Board of Education to express opposition to the shop.

However, the borough's zoning ordinance does not exclude gun shops from opening in that zone. Because it is a permitted use, High Caliber Ordnance did not have to receive approval from the Borough Council, Zoning Board of Adjustment or Planning Board to locate in the strip mall.

 The borough issued a continuing certificate of occupancy for the gun shop on Dec. 21. After being issued a $2 million liability policy, the shop is waiting for final state approval to open.

In a brief to the court, Viamare argued that provisions of the federal Gun Free Zone Act do not apply because the strip mall is private property and not part of school grounds.

At a January Borough Council meeting, Mayor Brian Gallagher said the borough cannot stop the gun shop from opening because a "sporting goods" store, under which the shop is classified, is allowed in the zone.

"We can't change that now," he said.

Which isn't to say they won't try to overhaul the town's zoning ordinances to prevent any additional gun shops from opening in the future. In fact, I'd say that's a near-certainty, even though as Gallagher has previously pointed out, there's also a liquor store already operating and a marijuana dispensary set to open up not too far away from the same elementary school, and neither of those businesses have drawn the same complaints that High Caliber Ordnance has been subjected to. 

No, it's only the gun shop that's been the target of activists in the small town, and while Shanahan's decision in favor of the gun shop removes one of few remaining hurdles, as the Courier-News points out, the shop still needs to get final approval from the state before it can begin selling firearms. 

It's also possible that Andrews and Flamos will appeal Shanahan's decision. They're already representing themselves in the lawsuit, so they don't have to worry about paying for an attorney to handle their case, but it will still take time and money to keep their case alive, and they really don't have a legal leg to stand on. Of course, that didn't stop them from filing suit in the first place, but now that the judge has dismissed their challenge at his first opportunity to do so, hopefully they'll get the hint that their litigation is going nowhere. 

In a statement to Bearing Arms, Schmutter said that he and his client "are pleased that the court recognized how baseless the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was," adding that the plaintiffs "tried to use the courts to shut down a completely lawful business merely because it lacked their personal stamp of approval.“

We'll be keeping an eye out for any appeal from the anti-gunners, as well as a potential grand opening date for High Caliber Ordnance. I'd like to think that the state won't engage in any similar shenanigans to prevent the gun shop from opening its doors, but this is New Jersey we're talking about, and anything is possible when it comes to infringing on our Second Amendment rights. .