FARGO — Fargo city commissioners took the first step on Monday night, May 17, to allow the sale of firearms and ammunition at in-home operations in city residential neighborhoods after a state law targeting Fargo's zoning restriction was passed this spring.
City Attorney Erik Johnson explained city zoning laws ban other business operations in neighborhoods such as car repairs and pet boarding operations, and the controversial firearms zoning law has been in effect for years in the city. However, the new state law that takes effect Aug. 1 will make the firearm sales restriction zoning law void, Johnson said.
Under the new law, "a political subdivision, including home rule cities or counties, may not enact a zoning ordinance or other ordinance relating to the purchase, sale, ownership, possession, transfer of ownership, registration or licensure of firearms and ammunition which is more restrictive than state law. All such existing ordinances are void."
After the law passed and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum, Johnson said his recommendation was to revise the zoning law. It will first go to the city's planning and zoning commission for a public hearing and vote, then to the city commissioners for final approval.
The motion to have Johnson draft an ordinance that would bring the home occupation regulation in conformance with state law, pushed by Commissioner Tony Gehrig at the meeting, passed 4-1.
Those in favor of the zoning change also said it wouldn't involve a steady stream of guns going in and out of homes in neighborhoods.
Opponents said people didn't want their children seeing firearms carried into homes next door or across the street.
Commissioner Dave Piepkorn was the lone vote against proceeding with an emphatic "no" vote. He said previously that he didn't think neighborhoods wanted such operations, although he didn't make any comments Monday night.
Commissioner John Strand said he "regrettably" would vote for the motion, but said he wished state legislators would let local leadership handle such issues rather than issue mandates.
Federal firearms dealers who could not use their homes as a base for an occupation in buying, selling and assisting in transfers of licenses for firearms and ammunition were the impetus for the law, Gehrig said.
Those who handle the federally required registration of firearms for other residents when they purchase a gun from someone else or through the internet usually do it on a "very part-time" basis, he said, and some had to find business zones to do the work.
In a letter to the commission, Gehrig said he recognized the divided sentiments about the bill. He said some felt "the bill invaded territory that should be a matter of local control, while others simply didn't like the idea of firearms and/or ammunition being sold or traded in residential neighborhoods."