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Based on the turnout at a March 14 public hearing, the sound and fury accompanying January's news of a "gun shop" opening on Main Street is gone.
The store, TGS Outdoors, opened quietly in February. Since then, it's seemed to have gained many fans. About 25 made up the audience at the public hearing on March 14. No one in the audience stood up to speak in opposition to the shop.
The hearing, held by an ad hoc committee of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), was set to gather public input on the possibility of creating a new town ordinance restricting gun and ammunition sales in certain areas of town. A second hearing was held March 16 (after press time).
Ad Hoc Chairman Adam Hanson opened the March 14 hearing with a review of what led to the formation of the committee, including a petition signed by 154 citizens and sent to First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos. The petition asked Branford to restrict gun shops in town. DaRos also received some phone calls and emails with requests and concerns, sparked by news of the pending Main Street gun shop. All of the concern had been kicked into high gear in light of the Dec. 14 school shooting tragedy in Newtown.
Due to already complying with all town requirements and laws at the time the petition was forwarded to Town Hall, TGS Outdoors was already well on its way to opening. DaRos, in his direction to the RTM, stated the ordinance would not affect those businesses already approved by the town. The ad hoc committee's mission has always been to look to the future, as far as where such shops might be restricted, such as the vicinity of schools, parks, and playgrounds.
Among those giving input in support of TGS Outdoors on March 14 was resident Cynthia Frawley, who stated, "One of worst things we can do is rule by fear and feed into paranoia. The fact is, it's a legal business; it's a sound business. It's been packed every time I've been in there."
Saying she was single mom, Frawley acknowledged in this day and age, "We're panicked, we're scared, but at the end of the day, you have to go with the law?They have bent over backwards to be a good neighbor. Now it's our turn."
TGS Outdoors owner Mike Higgins also spoke at the March 14 hearing, saying, "I guess I'm the guy who started this."
Higgins then cautioned the committee about embarking what could become a very slippery slope.
"Once you start with us, I'm not really sure where you're going to go next?We have at least two ice cream parlors, [and] Chunky Monkey is a lot of calories. There are a lot of things we can focus on in town. There's alcohol at restaurants. If a kid sees someone drinking a glass of wine?I don't think that's going to make him an alcoholic."
Higgins noted his shop is already "drawing people to town" from points well outside of Branford, because his business is one many shoreline towns don't have to offer.
"I really don't think it's in the town's best interest to limit us or anyone who comes after us," said Higgins.