PLEASANT HILL -- In a surprise move, Mayor Michael Harris and Councilman David Durant on Monday presented a draft ordinance requiring a police permit for firearms and ammunition dealers.
Under the proposal, gun shops could not locate within 150 feet of a residence, within 500 feet of parks, another gun dealer, massage parlor or adult entertainment venue or within 1,000 feet of a day care or school. Store owners and employees would have to pass a criminal-background check.
Dealers also must install an alarm system and surveillance cameras. The permit must be renewed annually.
Existing firearms dealers would be exempt from the location restrictions in the ordinance, but they would have to submit employees' background information to the Pleasant Hill police.
The sole dealer in the city with a home occupancy permit to sell guns would be allowed to continue operating, but no new permits for residential sales would be granted if the council approves the ordinance.
Durant and Harris said regulating gun and ammunition sales would protect residents' health, safety and welfare and provide for local control.
The City Council voted 4-1 to direct the city attorney to review the proposed ordinance and make any changes necessary to conform with state and federal law by Sept. 9. The council is scheduled to discuss the ordinance Sept. 30.
Police Chief John Moore said police have not had any problems with the four firearms dealers in the city -- City Arms, Diablo Valley Gun Works, Big 5 and a federally licensed gun dealer who operates an online business from his home. Dick's Sporting Goods, which is being built in the Crossroads Shopping Center, also is expected to sell guns.
Councilman Jack Weir, a longtime National Rifle Association member, opposes the ordinance because he believes it would make it more difficult for residents to buy guns.
"The right of people to have firearms and use them for their own defense shouldn't be infringed," Weir said. "This to me smacks of infringement."
In a strongly worded letter to the council, a Southern California law firm representing the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association claims that, "various provisions of the proposal unlawfully burden business, are pre-empted by state law, and/or violate constitutional protections, such as the right to keep and bear arms."
However, the courts have ruled that the Second Amendment doesn't prohibit government regulation of firearms dealers. Since the 1990s, gun control advocates have pressed city governments to adopt stronger regulations for firearms and ammunition dealers, such as requiring a land use permit, a police permit, on-site security and other measures.
At least 32 California counties and cities -- including Richmond, Antioch and Lafayette -- require a police permit or land use permit, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national advocacy group.
In crafting their proposal, Durant and Harris said they reviewed ordinances from several Contra Costa County cities, including Oakley, Pinole and San Pablo.
In 2011, Harris and Durant proposed requiring a use permit for new gun stores. Planning commissioners ultimately rejected the proposal because they didn't believe it addressed any existing public safety issues.
For several years, the Contra Costa chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been pushing the city to regulate gun and ammunition sales and to ban home gun dealers. On Monday, Pleasant Hill resident Karen Arntzen, a member of the chapter, praised Harris and Durant for reintroducing the issue.
Jim Bonato, a planning commissioner, also commended them.
"Legislation cannot prevent people from doing bad things, but we can promote a safer environment," Bonato said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.