PLEASANT HILL -- Despite impassioned debate over gun control and public safety, the deciding vote in favor of requiring a police permit for firearms and ammunition dealers turned on the city's ability to regulate businesses.
Councilman Tim Flaherty said the ordinance is neither a Second Amendment issue nor a gun violence prevention one. Rather, Flaherty views the measure as a way to ensure that future dealers operate with the same high standards as the city's existing gun stores.
The council, he said, is "looking at businesses in our community and deciding whether we want to have a say in whether that business continues to operate safely."
Flaherty voted with Mayor Michael Harris and Councilman David Durant, who jointly drafted the ordinance. Councilmen Jack Weir and Ken Carlson voted no.
The measure is scheduled to appear on the consent calendar for final approval at the council's Nov. 18 meeting.
Under the ordinance, gun stores can't 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 must pass a criminal-background check. Dealers must install an alarm system and surveillance cameras; and submit an annual report to the police chief detailing compliance with the regulations.
Existing firearms dealers are exempt from the new location restrictions, but they must submit employees' background information to the Pleasant Hill police. The sole dealer in the city with a home occupancy permit to sell guns from his residence can continue operating, but no new permits for residential sales will be granted.
Harris and Durant said the regulations will enhance public safety and provide a safety net in case state legislators weaken California's gun laws in the future.
"This is an issue of local control, not gun control," Harris said. "I think this is a rational and sane regulation."
Police Chief John Moore has said his department has not had any problems with the four firearms dealers in Pleasant Hill. Dick's Sporting Goods, which is being built in the Crossroads Shopping Center, also is expected to sell guns when it opens in the spring.
Durant made several changes to the ordinance Monday, including reducing from 60 to 45 days the period the police chief has to grant or deny a permit application; and clarifying that existing gun stores can expand in the same location without running afoul of the restrictions in the ordinance.
Carlson, a Concord police officer, said the rules are burdensome to gun stores and to the police department.
Weir doesn't believe the rules will make the city safer.
"I think the purpose of this legislation is to discourage firearms sales," said Weir, a longtime National Rifle Association member.
Although at least 32 California counties and cities have adopted similar rules, the National Shooting Sports Foundation on Tuesday said it will sue Pleasant Hill if the ordinance is enacted.
"We have decided to take a more aggressive stance to prevent anti-gun regulations from driving law-abiding, job-creating and taxpaying firearms retailers out of business through overregulation that will do nothing to enhance public safety," said Lawrence Keane, the foundation's executive vice president and general counsel, in a statement.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.