Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Dec. 4
A week ago the owner of an online gift shop located in Carlsbad's Planned Industrial Zone told Carlsbad's city council that her 2nd Amendment rights would be threatened if her struggling business is not allowed to sell guns online and to walk-in customers. She wanted a conditional use permit, since the area is restricted to light industrial and manufacturing businesses and offices that do not cater directly to the public.
Ancillary businesses serving the industrial developments and their populations may be permitted to operate in the zone, such as office supplies, deli/coffee, dry cleaners, hair salon, copying services and banks. City staff recommended denial of the CUP because the general public, not the population of the industrial zone, is the intended source of the gun shop's customers.
Here's a list of the reasons given by gift shop owner Lisa Gunther for the council to grant the permit, followed by questions I wish just one council member had bothered to ask.
- "Every building owner and operator in the zone should have the ability to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights within the city of Carlsbad. They should not have to leave the zone or the city to buy, transfer, or sell firearms."
Where in the Constitution does it say citizens exercising their 2nd Amendment rights must have a gun shop conveniently nearby? Duncan's Gunworks in San Marcos is a mere 4 miles up the road from Gunther Gifts. According to its website, it offers a full inventory of firearms, including "California compliant" guns, like the M&P (Military and Police) 15 which Smith and Wesson describes as its "version of the popular semi-automatic AR-15 rifle."
- "Every business has the need for security."
True enough, but does every business need a gun shop next door to provide that security?
- "For the first time the police department will be able to buy arms without leaving the city."
Why is that necessary? See #1.
"City planners say there are some retail outlets operating in the zone without permits. Selective enforcement is a misuse of power." Isn't this a code enforcement, rather than a let's abandon enforcement issue?
"We have spent over $20k over the last year to get this change, while others operate without a permit. We're fighting for fairness, we're fighting for our lives."
Is selling guns the only way to your financial recovery? What about other products or services that meet the zoning requirement? To quote the Bard, Gifts and guns are odd bedfellows.
- There's "overwhelming support from businesses in the zone."
Aren't city leaders who are elected by all the people supposed to make decisions based on what's best for all? It comes as no surprise fellow business owners want to help each other out.
In a rare 3-2 split vote the council approved the conditional use permit. Mayor Matt Hall and councilmember Mark Packard voted to deny the request, while the three newest members of the council, Farrah Douglas, Keith Blackburn and Evelyn Wood made Lisa Gunther's day
What was surprising about the way they voted is that the product being sold was not an issue. Hall said he had "no problem with gun sales," but that other businesses might make the same argument for a zoning exception. Packard agreed, fearing the loss of the "character of the city" because of the collapse of zoning.
Blackburn said he believed voters want leaders to be more "small business friendly." Douglas agreed. Wood simply said the proposal was "well thought out" and supported by surrounding businesses.
Except for Mayor Hall's assurance that he had no problem with the sale of guns in the city, no other councilmember addressed second amendment rights. If city leaders accept Gunther's argument that gun shops should be conveniently located for all citizens, can we expect their proliferation throughout the city?
It could be a boon to small businesses. According to a November 2012 Forbes report, sales have been booming at the two publicly traded firearms manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Co. Profits are up at Smith & Wesson by nearly 140% over the last four years and Sturm Ruger’s grew by nearly 200%. Employment in the firearms industry exploded by more than 30% between 2008 and 2011, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation.
Carlsbad's city code has very little to say about guns, just that you can't fire them in the city, and they're banned from our parks and beaches. But when it comes to Adult Business Licenses, there's a chapter devoted to it with 14 sections of regulations.
It appears Carlsbad city officials care more about protecting 2nd Amendment than 1st Amendment rights.
Richard Riehl writes from LaCosta. Contact him at email@example.com