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http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20120207_Kevin_Riordan__A_gun_shop_in_Merchantville_raises_questions.html?cmpid=124488459

DyAnne DiSalvo, who writes and illustrates books for children, is sometimes inspired by real life.

So her next novel may involve a gun shop like the one that opened near her Merchantville home last year and made her heart sink.

Firearms pervade our culture; they make some people feel secure and others afraid. Many people have no interest in owning (much less firing) one. And we'd rather not live near a commercial establishment that supplies folks who do.

"I was completely startled when I saw a sign saying 'firearms and ammunition,' " says DiSalvo, who has lived in the borough for 10 years and is the mother of two grown children. "I thought, 'Why is there a gun store here?' "

A quaint Camden County borough of about 3,800, Merchantville is best known for Victorian architecture and, lately, a move to merge with adjacent Cherry Hill. But unlike the notion of Merchantville becoming one with its far larger neighbor, the RayCo Armory sparked no opposition.

Until recently.

A letter by DiSalvo published last month in the Merchantville Observer, urging citizens to sign a petition to prevent any additional gun shops, drew an e-mail that accused her of wanting to subvert the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

RayCo is "a WELCOME addition to the area," the e-mail read in part, continuing, "people have rights, GOD given rights, to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

The store opened 13 months ago on Centre Street and Cuthbert Road in a cluster of commercial buildings surrounded by dense residential streets.

Law enforcement professionals and hunters make up much of the clientele at RayCo, which is owned by two affable brothers named Ray and Gary Veitenheimer. They grew up nearby and say they're an asset, not a liability, to the community.

"We've actually lowered crime," says Ray, 29, who lives in Merchantville.

"There's no riffraff around here," adds Gary, 33, of Riverside.

Says Borough Council President Edward Brennan, who oversees Merchantville's public-safety departments: "Everyone has a concern about guns, but I don't have a great concern about the store itself. There hasn't been a problem. And I haven't had people come up to me and say, 'What's this store doing in town?' "

I hadn't noticed RayCo either, until DiSalvo pointed it out on a recent blustery morning. Like a half dozen nearby businesses, it's partly obscured by a huge fried-chicken establishment.

"Here's the 'Welcome to Merchantville' sign, there's the elementary school, there's the fried chicken, and there's the gun shop," says DiSalvo, who grew up in Brooklyn. "Welcome to Merchantville!"

When I stop back later on, the Veitenheimer brothers have a six-deep line of customers and are too busy to chat. I return another day, and we talk while country music twangs and workers fabricate new displays; business, it seems, is brisk.

Gary and Ray know the law and insist they follow it to the letter.

"There's no criminals in here," Ray says. "And if you're not 18 and you're not with an adult, and you come in here, you will be asked to leave."

"This lady [DiSalvo] thinks we're selling guns to anyone who walks in," Gary says.

"She thinks a child can come in here and get hold of a gun," Ray adds. "You can't even touch a gun in here, including a pellet gun." (Which happens to be the only firearm I've ever used. I was 12.)

DiSalvo acknowledges that RayCo is a lawful enterprise, one that neither she nor anyone else in town formally objected to when zoning and signage applications came before various borough boards.

"Business is business, but they need to be regulated into certain areas - business areas," she says. "This is a residential area.

"Merchantville . . . needs to wake up. We need to change the zoning laws."

Says lifelong resident Melinda Gaffney, 69, "the question is, is a gun shop a good idea?

"And what kind of town do you want your town to appear to be?"

That sounds like a civic conversation worth having in Merchantville - and elsewhere.
 

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"Business is business, but they need to be regulated into certain areas - business areas," she says. "This is a residential area.

Its in a business district, or they wouldn't be allowed to be there.

"And what kind of town do you want your town to appear to be?"
A law abiding town, where one wack job and her friends in the press cannot try to intimidate gov't officials.
 

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More people are killed owning bycicles than guns.

I guess the next time Swinn opens a store in her town Ms. DiSalvo will have a problem with that also.

[eyeroll]
 

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More coments from the PC "Your Icecream made me fat" mentaity. WTF is wrong with these folks?
 

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Good one ladybird![up]
 

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im not far from there. may have to go show them(the shop)some support.

yeah the yuppie types in merchantville and haddonfield are an entirely special breed of folk.
some of them lack the genetic code for common sense and rational thought process.

Nick
 

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DiSalvo should go into the store and ask to look at or buy a gun, then be astounded because she can't. That would rain on her PC parade,and reveal the truth.
well said.[up]
This woman lives in a fantacy land, its truly amazing how in the dark she is about reality. What is also scary, is that there are many like her in NJ and they are lawmakers. When you vote in NJ, take great care on WHO you vote for and WHY.
 

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It's called MERCHANTVILLE!!!!!!!!!!!!! and they want to complain about a business... Can't fix stupid.
 

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They are a couple of nice guys and their business is well run and self regulated. I have been there many times. They are an asset to the business community, not a detriment. That shop is about three miles to downtown Camden, the second most dangerous city in America. That lady ought to walk down Camden Ave and take her complaints about gun ownership to the hoodlums hanging out on Mt Ephraim Ave. I an sure they will attempt to assuage her angst about guns after they show her theirs and relieve her of her property.
 
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