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The proposed zoning code amendment to govern firearm businesses in Riverhead has no Town Board support, according to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who also ranted against gun regulation laws as a way curtail gun violence during the board’s meeting today. 

Aguiar said the legislation drafted by the town attorney’s office, which had a public hearing with polarized opinions from the public last month, will not be voted on or discussed unless a board member puts it forward. Board members agreed during the conversation that the code went “too far,” in the words of Councilman Frank Beyrodt. Board members said during the hearing last month that the code did not come from any board members or the town’s code revision committee, where town officials discuss proposed changes to the town code.

Aguiar responded to a question posed by Northville resident Kathy McGraw, who asked what the status of the amendment was. She said there was “an outpouring from this community” on the amendment and “a real interest in this town in zoning for firearms business.” 

[See prior coverage: Public opinion divided on proposed firearms code, which now heads back to the drawing board]

“I know, last town board meeting, I was told that you can have public hearings, but the board doesn’t have to act on them, but it seems to me that there is enough interest in this town in having these kinds of amendments,” McGraw said. “and particularly at this point in time in this nation, with the proliferation of guns in this country, and the endless mass shootings — don’t you think it’s time to at least begin to address the issue of something as straightforward and as basic as firearm [business] zoning?”

“None of the board members have indicated they want to move it forward,” Aguiar said. “And the purpose of public hearings is to hear from the public and then maybe moving forward. It is an open process. At the moment, I don’t see it going forward, unless any other member wants to put it forward, and we can discuss it.” 

“We listened to the public and it’s not the right time,” Aguiar said. “A year from now? Two years from now?” she said suggestively.

Aguiar then proceeded to address McGraw’s comments about gun violence, which has been a national topic of conversation following recent mass shootings, including at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York and a school in Uvalde, Texas. Town Attorney Erik Howard, an author of the proposed code, told RiverheadLOCAL that it was not introduced in response to the Buffalo shooting, which happened the weekend prior to its introduction to the board.

“And I hate to disagree with you on utilizing a national issue with all these shootings. The guns are not in the hands of your average law-abiding citizen,” Aguiar said. “You can create as many laws as you want — 1,000 of them. All these public announcements, all these press conferences, and you create the toughest laws in the world. The guns are in the wrong people, they’re in the hands of the criminals — as a result of defunding the police, which aids it, and they’re in the hands of some of the mentally disabled individuals,” Aguiar said.

“To put one issue with another is not correct. From a law enforcement individual, former law enforcement, I know where the guns are. I know how they get here. I know what town, what states they come from. And I know they all travel through I-95,” Aguiar continued. “I’m not giving you — you give me your opinion. I’m telling you a fact …the guns are in the wrong hands and having all these legislations it’s not going to stop the shootings.”

McGraw responded saying that residents came out in large numbers on the issue and Aguiar “owe[s] it to the town to explain why this isn’t the right time.” Aguiar said the board chose to not move it forward and does not have an obligation to vote on it.

The only board member who seemed in support of a zoning change to address firearm businesses was Councilman Tim Hubbard, who said he briefly discussed the amendment with the code revision committee on Monday, but did not elaborate on the discussion. He said he will work on an amendment on his own.

“I personally felt we need to address it,” said Hubbard, a retired Riverhead Police detective. “But we needed to change some things that were in the original draft. So, I will still work on this and try to push this forward, but if it has board support or not, that’s up to the board. If there’s not a majority for support, then it doesn’t go anywhere.”

“Okay, so you’re working on that? Your code? Yes, you guys work on it, you bring it to the board,” Aguiar said. “That’s part of the process here, the legislative process, and we’re not going to change it. 

“But it is something we are going to —  I’m going to actively pursue, anyway, through code revision, and see if we can change what we first submitted for the public hearing,” Hubbard said.

The code amendment was introduced to the board during a work session as a ban on firearm businesses in downtown zoning districts. Board members agreed during that conversation that the shops are not family-friendly and should not be in an area they are trying to revitalize for tourists. A copy of the code was not provided during that meeting, as it was in a draft stage, and the board voted the following week to set a public hearing on a code addressing the businesses town wide — which was more extensive than they initially thought.

[See prior coverage: Riverhead considering ban on firearms businesses downtown]

RiverheadLOCAL reported following the public hearing that the controversial code amendment would go back to the drawing board, after talking to board members who expressed the opinion that they didn’t support the code in its current form. 

The zoning code was proposed as two firearms businesses, the Riverhead-based JJ Armory and Westhampton Beach-based Niosi Firearm Development, sought approvals from the town to move into locations downtown and on Elton Street respectively.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]