By Travis Gettys
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FRANKFORT - A proposed change in state law could allow a Newport gun shop owner to expand his business into nearby cities, a move that has been blocked for years by local zoning laws.
Newport gunsmith Peter Garrett, shown in his shop at 838 Monmouth St., favors a bill pending in the Kentucky House of Representatives that would ease restrictions on opening locations elsewhere.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
A bill to allow gun dealers to open shops in their homes by exempting them from almost all local zoning restrictions has been approved by a House committee.
The legislation was prompted by an appeals court ruling in a case involving gun shop owner Peter Garrett, said Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
Garrett sought in 2000 to open two new locations of his gunsmith business in Dayton and Bellevue, but his plans were rejected because of planning and zoning rules, which he calls "gun control by proxy."
He sued to have the restrictions overturned and lost. A 2002 Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling said local zoning regulations supersede state law regarding the location of gun shops. However, the legislation would permit guns to be sold legally anywhere in the state where other businesses are allowed.
In some counties, for example, tax experts are allowed to run businesses out of their homes. Because those businesses are allowed, the bill would require local governments to allow gun dealers to open shops in their homes. They would still have to be licensed by the federal government.
"I am not nearly as restricted as before," Garrett said of the proposed change. "I was looking down the barrel of a gun under the old law."
The House Local Government Committee approved the bill 13-4 Tuesday, and supporters were confident the full House would pass it. It has already passed in the Senate.
"The pro-gun people control the House a lot better than they do the local government committee," said Guy Hardin, who testified in support of the bill for the group Take Back Kentucky.
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, voted against the bill even after it was amended to exclude Louisville.
Officials view the bill as an "erosion" of local zoning laws, said Ron Wolf, a lobbyist for Louisville Metro Government.
Some lawmakers wondered whether other businesses - such as adult entertainment - will now seek exemptions from local zoning laws.
If the bill becomes law, Garrett said, he isn't sure where he'll open a new gun shop.
"This opens up a lot of options for me," he said. "If I don't go to Dayton or Bellevue, which I may yet, I'll probably go out in the county."
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