Fargo Planning Commission votes down home-based gun sales
FARGO — After a spirited discussion, Fargo Planning Commission members voted 5-3 on Monday, May 5, to keep the 19-year-old city zoning law banning the sale of firearms from homes.
The matter now goes to the City Commission, which voted 3-2 in January to have the issue examined, for a final decision.
In the planning commission public hearing and vote, two men who hold a federal firearms license and another seeking to obtain one appeared in person at City Hall during the virtual meeting to argue for a law change.
In emails submitted, two residents voiced their opposition to the change as did several commissioners who were mostly concerned about the effects on neighborhoods.
Edward Krystosek, a licensed dealer and also a candidate for the City Commission in the June election, said the home-based business is more like a service to residents who want to purchase a gun on the internet or for handgun license transfers from one state to another.
Any gun purchased on the internet can only be delivered to a dealer licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The dealer then does the background check on the buyer and finishes other paperwork before the gun can be handed over to the buyer.
Police Chief David Todd said he hadn't had any complaints about the seven licensed dealers in the city and that they undergo extensive background checks. He added that the ATF "doesn't fool around."
Krystosek currently operates in a commercial building, but during his six years as a licensed dealer he said his neighbors have been supportive of his work and that any such business would involve few customers on a daily basis.
Commissioner Dawn Morgan said the change seemed like a "bad idea" for the preservation of neighborhoods.
She wondered why a licensed dealer couldn't just move to an industrial area.
"Most of us know guns are associated with violence and accidents, and I think it would be detrimental to a neighborhood," she said
Commissioner Rocky Schneider said he was a bit torn about the issue, but questioned whether he would want to see "strangers walking out with a gun" from his neighbor's home when out in the yard with his daughter.
Another commissioner, Scott Stofferahn, wondered if home-based businesses are a target for thieves around the country.
An ATF representative via telephone said she didn't have any data on that question. However, she said most licensed dealers work almost exclusively on helping gun owners transfer licenses for handguns between states or family members and those internet sales. She said almost all of the home-based businesses she has seen don't have an inventory of guns.
Krystosek said he has always secured his weapons and that a dealer would certainly want to do it for safety reasons and because if a firearm was stolen the chances of retrieving it would be minimal.
Peter McDonald, who joined the City Commission in requesting officials to look into the issue, asked about state laws that point to the Second Amendment and don't allow any interference with gun owner rights. He said he and his state legislator asked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem about the law, but he refused to give an opinion.
City Attorney Erik Johnson said he still sticks with his 2016 ruling that zoning laws are different as they only pertain to where commercial gun sales can be made.
Voting for keeping the current law banning home-based gun sales were Morgan, Schneider, Stofferahn, Melissa Sobolik and Brad Bachmeier. The three votes against came from Maranda Tasa, Mary Scherling and commission Chairman John Gunkelman. Two commissioners, Jennifer Holtz and Art Rosenberg, were absent from the meeting.
Another public hearing on the issue will occur when the City Commission takes up the final decision.