PLEASANT HILL -- After several mass shootings in the past year and the failed Congressional effort to pass tighter federal gun laws, Pleasant Hill may join other California cities that regulate firearms and ammunition sales.
The City Council on Monday is scheduled to consider an ordinance that requires a police permit for gun dealers. Under the proposal, gun stores 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.
Supporters say the proposal will make Pleasant Hill safer by exercising "reasonable" control over potentially dangerous products. However, detractors think the ordinance would unfairly burden gun dealers who already must comply with numerous state and federal regulations.
After Mayor Michael Harris and Councilman David Durant presented a draft of the ordinance last month, the city attorney made mostly minor revisions to ensure it conforms with state and federal law.
The revised ordinance replaces the requirement for annual permit renewal with a yearly report to the police chief detailing the dealer's compliance with the regulations. Although the ordinance requires notification of nearby property owners, it doesn't include a public hearing process until after an appeal.
Existing firearms dealers would be exempt from the new location restrictions, 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.
City staffers estimate that Pleasant Hill would need to charge $700 to recoup the cost of processing each permit application.
"One of my primary responsibilities as a council member and mayor is the safety and welfare of the residents," Harris said. "I believe that reasonable regulations affecting the sale of firearms and ammunition are an important way of protecting our residents."
Since the 1990s, gun control advocates have pressed city governments to adopt stronger regulations for firearms and ammunition dealers. 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.
Police Chief John Moore has said that his department has not had any problems with the four firearms dealers in Pleasant Hill -- 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 thinks the ordinance is a heavy-handed fix for a nonexistent problem. At the meeting, Weir said he will ask Moore how many times guns have been stolen from the city's licensed dealers and how often such firearms have been used during a violent crime in Pleasant Hill.
"I see that (the ordinance) imposes new and costly bureaucratic administrative processes on police and firearms dealers," said Weir, a longtime National Rifle Association member and firearms instructor. "But I honestly don't see how that makes anybody safer."
The proposal has drawn the attention of advocates on both sides of the gun control debate. While supportive of the ordinance, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence wants the city to expand the buffer between gun stores and residential areas to 500 feet and apply the 1,000-foot location restriction to colleges and universities. In letters to the council, law firms representing the NRA, the California Rifle and Pistol Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation maintain that the ordinance burdens businesses, duplicates existing law and violates the constitutional right to bear arms. However, the courts have ruled that the Second Amendment doesn't prohibit government regulation of gun dealers.
This is the second time Durant and Harris have tried to regulate firearms dealers. In 2011, the pair proposed requiring a use permit for new gun stores. Planning commissioners ultimately rejected the proposal because they didn't think it addressed any existing public safety issues.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Pleasant Hill City Council meeting
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane
To read the proposed firearms ordinance, go to www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us.