Monday, April 5, 2004

Bill allows dealers to sell guns in homes

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

A bill passed by the state Legislature that allows gun dealers to open shops in their homes has some local officials up in arms.

"How could anybody in their right mind think it was appropriate for a gun shop to open up in a neighborhood?" said Bellevue City Councilman Tom Ratterman.

The legislation, which exempts gun businesses from most zoning laws, sailed through both houses of the General Assembly last week, passing by a 77-17 vote in the House and a 34-4 margin in the Senate.

Sen. Katie Stine, R-Fort Thomas, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said the legislation strengthens an earlier law, passed in 1984, which prohibits municipalities from regulating the transfer, possession or manufacture of firearms.

"This is a Second Amendment right that the legislature felt was very important," Stine said.

Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli isn't so sure.

"This is completely different than bearing arms," he said. "They're using the right to bear arms to jump over hoops."

By passing the legislation, the state has taken the power to decide what businesses are appropriate out of the hands of local governments, said Dayton City Administrator Gary Scott.

"This legislation takes every zoning ordinance in every city in the state and throws it in the trash," he said.

Peter Garrett, a Newport gunsmith, sought in 2000 to open a shop in Bellevue or Dayton, but city officials would not allow him to locate in the cities' central business districts.

Bellevue officials felt Garrett's business did not fit in with the pedestrian shopping district along Fairfield Avenue, said Bellevue City Administrator Donald Martin.

"People don't decide on the spur of the moment to buy a gun," Martin said.

"That's more of a destination purchase."

Garrett rejected locations offered by each city in commercial strip malls, sued to have zoning restrictions overturned and lost.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in 2002 that local zoning regulations trump state law regarding location of gun shops, but the legislation permits firearms to be sold anywhere other businesses are allowed.

"Gun businesses should be treated the same way as any other business," Stine said.

The legislation permits cities to limit the size of such operations, Stine said, by allowing them to regulate the number of employees.

"You can thereby prohibit a large manufacturer from setting up shop in a residential neighborhood," Stine said.

Even a small gun shop could affect property values for surrounding houses, Guidugli said. "That's the reason for zoning," he said. "There's a lot of businesses you wouldn't want next door."

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