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A new law governing gun shops will be proposed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and while proponents say it will give the city a chance to vet gun shops before they open, opponents say it undermines the Second Amendment.
City Councilman Kevin McCarty said he and City Councilman Rob Fong will ask staff to look into an ordinance that would require a conditional use permit for any new gun store within city limits.
The law would not likely affect the incoming gun store at 24th and J streets, but would govern future ones.
“We want reasonable regulations,” McCarty said. “This doesn’t even regulate them. It just regulates where they’re located.”
But Gene Hoffman, chairman of the Calguns Foundation, a California-based Second Amendment advocacy group, said it walks a thin line, at best.
“The simple question is can you place a bookstore there?” Hoffman said Thursday. “If you can place a bookstore there, you can place a gun store there. Otherwise it’s a violation of the Second Amendment.”
He added that banning a gun store would be just as much a violation of the Second Amendment as a whites-only diner would be a violation of the equal protections granted under the 14th Amendment.
The proposed law comes after The Sacramento Press reported last week that a new gun store will likely come to the old Cornerstone location at 2330 J St. in Midtown, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a dealer license to that address.
The site is a block and a half away from where Old Sacramento Armory – another gun store – stood for decades before closing in the mid-2000s.
Currently, the city treats gun stores like any other retail use, and no special city oversight is required before they can open.
McCarty said Wednesday that there are other instances where the city regulates businesses, including requiring conditional use permits for tobacco businesses operating within 1,000 feet of schools – an ordinance the council passed Tuesday night.
“If you’re a Subway sandwich shop, you can lease a building and move in,” McCarty said, “but there are certain things you have to ask permission for.”
He said the future opening of the gun store “raised some people’s eyebrows in the neighborhood,” and that he thinks it’s an issue that bears looking at.
“We’re just looking at a little more hurdles,” he said. “It’s not a flat-out ban. They could still do it, but this would give people the ability to come to public hearings.”
Hoffman said the city, if it eventually enacts the law, needs to make sure that any restrictions need to apply equally to any other businesses that might open in the same space, or risk opening itself up to a lawsuit.
“We will be announcing a lawsuit in the next couple of days in a similar situation in Northern California,” Hoffman said. “The gun store went in for a variance, and it got a variance, but the local board of supervisors overturned it.”
He declined to give details of the situation, but said the lawsuit will be announced within days.
Jesus Figueroa, co-owner of M&J Gun Trade, said he could open as early as next week at 2330 J St., but added that a law like the one being proposed would likely make some prospective gun store owners balk at doing business in a city that already has tight gun store regulations.
"I think people will take their business elsewhere," he said.
Other municipalities have similar laws, and Bill Sharff, co-owner of STS Guns in Folsom, said he had to place his gun store a minimum of 500 feet from residences and 1,000 feet from schools.
“The first place we leased was 480 feet from from a residence, so we had to get another spot,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the Second Amendment. The gun store owner has rights, but you also have to realize you deal with public sentiment also.”
Sharff said the permitting and licensing process to open his gun shop – which opened on Christmas Eve – took him about seven months.
McCarty said the proposed ordinance will join two others from 2007. One requires ammunition sales within city limits to be registered with the buyer’s thumbprint, and the other requires that all lost or stolen firearms be reported to police.
Laws regulating ammunition sales have been upheld by the Supreme Court, McCarty said, and Hoffman said the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that gun shops and shooting ranges are an essential piece to the portion of the Second Amendment that protects the right to bear arms.
McCarty declined to say whether he thinks regulating the location of gun stores will lead to reduced gun violence.
, pending the outcome of staff research.
[Editor's note: After the article was published, McCarty contacted the Sacramento Press and said his comment regarding staff research was regarding legal issues, not whether gun stores correlate to violence.]
Hoffman pointed to research done by the city of Sunnyvale, Calif., last year that found “there is no correlation between gun-related crimes and the location of firearms sales businesses.”
Hoffman and Sharff both said that gun stores are among the most-regulated businesses in the country, and people selling and purchasing firearms must undergo criminal background checks.
"The types of people who go to gun stores are the law-abiding and cops," Hoffman said. "The last time I checked, hanging out around law-abiding people and cops who are armed isn't what most criminals want to do."
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.