A temporary emergency moratorium on future gun sales in town will be brought back to the Los Gatos Town Council for consideration at its March 4 meeting.
By a unanimous vote, the Council Monday evening also asked staff to research through the end of this year 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
The moratorium, if approved, would be similar to that adopted by the Council related to medical marijuana dispensaries, said Los Gatos Town Attorney Judith Propp.
The prohibition would be in effect to allow staff to study land-use controls based on documented health, safety and welfare concerns, Propp said.
The moratorium would only apply to any new firearm retailers that would seek to do business in Los Gatos.
Vice Mayor Steven Leonardis expressed concern about the issuance of gun retailer Templar Sports' business license Aug. 29, 2012 prior to the shop receiving its federal firearms permit.
The business opened last December at 611 University Ave. It's been met with what has seemed as equal support and opposition to gun sales from area residents.
Leonardis said the law stated such a license can't be granted prior to the business receiving its federal firearms license and other documents.
"Just wondering in what jurisdiction did we act to issue that license?" he asked.
Propp said town staff followed the law for a business tax, or business license, sticking to the ministerial process established by town code. Templar Sports filled out the necessary paperwork and paid the tax to the town. Once that happened, the town had the obligation to issue the license, she said.
The Council also authorized staff to consider a voluntary operating agreement with Templar Sports in response to community concerns about the new business.
The moratorium, which would require a four-fifths vote, would be vetted in a public hearing. Once approved, the prohibition would go into effect immediately. The town has 45 days during which staff could bring back additional information to the Council. At the most, the moratorium could be in place for two years, Propp said.
The Council's vote came after more than one hour of additional testimony about the issue of gun sales from Los Gatos and Bay Area residents. On Feb. 4, more than 120 people had signed speaker cards to address the legislative body to speak about the controversial issue.
Monday's meeting was a continuation of last Feb. 4 meeting, which had Templar Sports owner Robert Chang speaking about the issue. Following that meeting, he reported to San Jose Police that he had received a death threat.
Extra police officers were assigned to Monday evening's meeting as a precaution due to the threat against Chang and due to the highly charged nature of the discussion about gun sales in Los Gatos.
Armed officers controlled the large crowd, which once again spilled into the Council Chamber's lobby and adjacent old library. As they did last Monday, supporters held orange signs that read "We support Templar Sports," and opponents held green signs that read, "Accountability & Transparency."
Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector called to the podium more than 10 residents who had signed up to speak last week, but they weren't present during the meeting last night.
Los Gatos resident Sue Farwell said she had never felt town staff, Planning Commission or Council had acted with disingenuous intentions and noted that it wasn't up to the staff or the Council to arbitrarily demand a public hearing for a permitted use, "even if this is polarizing and controversial."
"I take offense that there's been accusations against the planning staff and the chief of police by members of our community," she said.
Richard Martinez, of Santa Cruz, said he had come to the meeting to support Chang and the gun store. "I don't think they [Templar Sports] intend to hurt anybody in Los Gatos."
Edmundo Alire, of Livermore, reminded the public that the gun store's opening was not related to recent gun violence in the country and that horrific events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut are perpetrated by those afflicted with mental illness and other societal ills such as broken homes.
C. Jeffrey Stanley, owner of Bad Boys Bail Bonds in San Jose, said he and Templar Sports had Constitutional rights to operate. "Templar Sports allows access to a right. Taking away rights or restricting any of our rights will adversely affect us as a free society," he said.
Los Gatos resident Patricia Ernstrom called the issue of gun sales emotional and divisive. "This isn't about the Second Amendment. This isn't about the right to bear arms. No one is saying that the people of Los Gatos do not have the right to gun ownership if they so choose. The issue is whether or not this is the right type of business that belongs in Los Gatos."
Unfortunately, she said, the lack of process showed a complete disregard to citizens for and against gun sales. "If someone is filling out a business license application to sell sporting goods, when in fact they're not, that should be grounds for review," Ernstrom said. "Sporting goods, but no bats, no balls, no skis, no socks, no helmets, no rackets, no clubs and no shoes. Sporting goods, but not a single item to buy for any sports program offered at any school or recreational activity that the town offers."
—For comprehensive coverage of Los Gatos gun retailer Templar Sports' opening in town, please see our topic page by clicking here.