PLEASANT HILL -- Following hours of debate, the City Council on Monday delayed a decision on an ordinance regulating the sales of firearms and ammunition.
On a 4-1 vote, the council passed a motion directing the city attorney to prepare a report comparing the additional regulations the proposed ordinance would place on firearms dealers to existing requirements under state and federal law. Councilman Jack Weir, who opposes the ordinance, cast the no vote.
The council is scheduled to reconsider the proposal at the Oct. 21 meeting.
The ordinance 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 a park, another gun dealer, a massage parlor or an 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 would also have to install an alarm system and surveillance cameras.
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.
Councilman David Durant, who drafted the ordinance with Mayor Michael Harris, said the intent of the ordinance is threefold -- to manage where the city allows weapons sales, provide a safety net in case state legislators weaken California's gun laws in the future; and to give police easier and faster access to information about gun dealers and their employees.
He also argued that the regulations aren't onerous since state or federal law already requires many of the same practices.
"Is it needed? Is it necessary? It may not be. Can it help? Yes, it can," said Durant.
Police Chief John Moore has said his department has not had any problems with the four firearms dealers in Pleasant Hill -- City Arms, The 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.
On Monday, Moore said there has been one incident of theft from a licensed gun dealer in the past nine years.
Mayor Michael Harris said the ordinance won't put the city's gun stores out of business, nor will it overburden police. While he acknowledged that the gun dealers in Pleasant Hill have operated in good faith, Harris argued the council should be proactive, rather than reactive.
"Is there the potential that this ordinance could prevent some sort of tragedy in Pleasant Hill? The answer is yes," Harris said. "This is not a gun control issue. This is not a Second Amendment issue. This is a health and safety issue."
Although a roughly equal number of supporters and opponents spoke before a full council chamber, more Pleasant Hill residents appeared to favor the ordinance.
Critics said the regulations are redundant, burdensome, infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and could drive the existing gun stores out of Pleasant Hill and discourage new ones from opening.
Supporters described the ordinance as a common sense, reasonable effort to address gun violence that would enhance public safety and keep gun stores out of residential neighborhoods.
"This is already a heavily regulated line of business. Adding more regulation is either superfluous or just redundant," said Pleasant Hill resident Charles Warren.
Craig Peterson described the ordinance as a good step forward.
"If we do not have positive control over where we have these businesses we're going to have problems," said Peterson, who lives in Pleasant Hill.
During last year's election, Councilman Ken Carlson earned the endorsement of the Contra Costa Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence after he pledged to work to enact an ordinance regulating firearms and ammunition dealers and to ban home occupation gun sales.
But on Monday, Carlson, a Concord police officer, said the proposed ordinance penalizes gun dealers who are complying with state and federal laws. Although Carlson supports location restrictions, he's not convinced the other provisions are necessary.
Councilman Tim Flaherty said he views the ordinance as a way to ensure that future firearms dealers operate with the same high standards as the city's existing gun stores.
Weir said safety education and training are a better approach to preventing gun violence than regulating firearms dealers.
At least 32 California counties and cities -- including Richmond, Antioch and Lafayette -- require a police permit or land-use permit for firearms and ammunition dealers, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national advocacy group.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.