More than 100 speakers addressed the Los Gatos Town Council Monday evening during a meeting to discuss the sales of firearms and ammunition following the December 2012 opening of Templar Sports, 611 University Avenue.
The long and emotionally charged meeting was attended by at least 300 people who packed inside Council chambers, into the chambers' reception lobby and into the adjacent old Los Gatos Library where the meeting was projected on TV sets and a large screen.
One by one, each speaker was allowed to state their position on the controversial issue for three minutes. The Council patiently listened to residents' input taking a five-minute break at around 9:30 p.m., after what already had been a 2½-hour meeting.
At five minutes to midnight, Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector reported that she still had approximately 25 speaker cards to go through so Councilwoman Marcia Jensen and Councilman Joe Pirzynski moved to have the meeting continue on Feb. 11. About 125 speaker cards had been submitted as of 9:30 p.m.
"This is obviously a very challenging and divisive issue nationally, statewide and now locally," said Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson.
Larson reminded the Council that federal and state laws prevail over local laws with regard to gun retailers in communities. Most recently, he said, a San Francisco case overturned that city's voter approved prohibition on all firearm sales.
Although the hearing seemed scheduled specifically to hear from the community about the issue, at times it seemed that Council members were scrutinizing every step taken by staff to allow the store to open.
Mayor Spector, who called the meeting, asked for information regarding the public notice for the business' design review committee's evaluation of the exterior modifications of the building where it operates.
Councilwoman Diane McNutt asked for information about Templar Sports business license review and approvals and Vice Mayor Steven Leonardis requested all applications and documentation about its business license, certificate of use and occupancy, building permit and federal firearms and state licenses issued.
Town staff has been directed to research and prepare a potential ordinance and policy changes to:
- Designate which land-use zones may be appropriate for sale of firearms and ammunition;
- Require a conditional-use permit for the sale of firearms and ammunition;
- Restrict home occupation permits for sale of firearms and ammunition;
- Establish a police permit requirement for dealers of firearms and ammunition;
- Require identification checks for the sale of ammunition; and /or
- Require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms
Those wanting an ordinance to at least get future gun retailers to obtain a conditional-use permit to operate in town and new zoning established to locate them in a certain section of town said that many residents were upset by what they perceived was a lack of transparency about the business.
They also expressed concern that one of the owners is a current officer with the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department.
Many in the audience held small green signs that read, "Why no public hearing?" and many held orange signs that simply stated: "We support Templar Sports."
Can the town close Templar Sports? Larson said his staff believes it has no legal authority to close the business unless it violates federal or state law.
Can firearms be restricted in the future? Larson said absolutely, but with limits as is being recommended. He added he was looking for Council direction to bring back to the body a number of land-use and regulatory controls over firearms retailers in Los Gatos.
"We don't believe based on prior court rulings that we can prohibit firearms sales in all land-use zones. There needs to be some appropriate places to avoid a blanket prohibition, which has not been sustained in prior court rulings."
Larson said staff can research the options for the Council in the next three or four months based on decisions it will make during its Feb. 19 meeting regarding workload and distribution.
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