2017-05-25 / Front Page

Gun Shop to Open on Aquidneck Island

By Olga Enger

Middletown Town Council gave the green light to a firearms dealer to open a shop at 10 Coddington Hwy.

"This was a big stepping stone," said applicant Matt Carvalho of Newport, speaking to Newport This Week after the approval. Council granted the license in a 7-0 vote after a brief discussion at the May 15 meeting. The local license fee for a firearms dealer is $5.

Carvalho hopes to open A&M Tactical by Aug. 1, which will be the second gun shop on Aquidneck Island. Currently, the only firearms dealer is Island Gun Shop, located on East Main Road in Portsmouth. The last Middletown gun dealer was Quarry’s Gun Shop on Maple Avenue, whose license expired in 1996, according to town records.

Carvalho plans to sell firearms, serve as a delivery location for online purchases and provide gun safety education to residents.

He also plans to sell a wide-range of guns allowed under state law, including revolvers and hunting guns, he said. The local license was granted provisionally, pending the federal license, which Carvalho expects by July.

Town officials, including the Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare, have been supportive of his plans, said Carvalho. Police inspected the building to ensure that proper safety protocols will be followed, such as barred windows.

"I am a certified firearms safety instructor. That's my main priority: safety," Carvalho said. He has worked in Rhode Island gun shops for the past 10 years and has firearms as a lifelong hobby. "I can't stress enough that public safety and security is my number one priority."

Nationwide, the number of firearms background checks is increasing. Although the numbers don't correlate one-to-one with gun sales due to various state laws and purchase scenarios, the trend implies a sharp upward growth of firearms sales across the country. In 2016, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 27.5 million requests, compared with 16.4 million requests, five years earlier.

To purchase a handgun under state law, an individual must be at least 21 and possess a Rhode Island Blue Card, which is granted through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), after a safety course. The minimum age to buy a rifle or shotgun is 18 years old. Prior to the sale, the dealer is required to conduct a background check, and a seven-day waiting period is also required before the buyer may physically possess the gun.

Permits to carry concealed weapons in Rhode Island are issued by either the local police department or the state's attorney general's office. Licenses granted by local authorities are "shall issue" while those submitted to the attorney general's office are "may issue" under state law. Until recently, most local authorities deferred to the attorney general’s office, which blocked most license requests unless one were a retired law enforcement officer. In 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that a police chief must review carry permit applications and render a decision. If an applicant were denied a carry license, the court ruled that the issuing authority must "show cause" for the decision.

Carvalho told Newport This Week that he had not experienced pushback from the community, but he would not be surprised if some residents were apprehensive about the new store.

"In the part of the country that we are in, it's very liberal. There is opposition to guns. If that happens, I am more than happy to sit down with people and answer any questions. Often, it is a fear of the unknown," said Carvalho.

Over the past several years, Rhode Island lawmakers have pushed a series of gun control bills that have failed to gain traction at Smith Hill.

In April, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee heard what seems to have become a perennial package of gun safety legislation, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, the restriction of guns on school grounds, the removal of guns from domestic violence offenders and the recognition of out-of-state carry permits.

All the bills were held for further study.

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