North Dakota bill would overturn Fargo gun sales rule

Legislation would overturn the city's ruling against gun sales in residential neighborhoods passed in 2020.

State Rep. Ben Koppelman.jpg
State Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo
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FARGO — A bill has been introduced in the North Dakota Legislature to clarify and stop any attempts by cities or counties to put limits on firearms, but it has drawn a sharp rebuke from the Fargo City Commission.

State Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, would like to add language that restricts use of a city or county zoning law or any other ordinance to "address the purchase, sale, ownership, possession, transfer of ownership, registration or licensure of firearms, dangerous weapons and ammunition which is more restrictive than state law."

The bill adds that "such existing ordinances are void."

Koppelman said the main reason for the bill, which he believes has "a very good chance of being approved," is that the legislature's longstanding stance has been that cities and counties can't pass gun laws that are stricter than state law.


He already believes Fargo's city zoning ordinance on restricting firearms operations in residential neighborhoods is ignoring state law. His bill is aimed at shooting that city law down.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said the zoning regulation affecting firearm operations, as well other restricted businesses in residential areas, is being considered by a task force looking at the city's land development code.

Mahoney said that work on the new zoning regulations that will have to be approved by the City Commission likely wouldn't be completed for another year.

Three city commissioners on Monday night, Jan. 11, vehemently objected to Koppelman's proposal which they thought would take away local control.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he wasn't looking for a fight but that it was his belief that "individuals buying or selling guns among themselves is none of our business, but retail gun stores in a neighborhood — that is our business."

"The majority of people that have contacted me are opposed to having retail guns stores in their neighborhoods," he said.

The city has a right to make zoning laws and place restrictions on the type of businesses in neighborhoods, Piepkorn said, giving an adult entertainment operation as an example.


Commissioner John Strand said he found it "very, very difficult to swallow preemptions pushed down our throat from the state legislature."

As an example, he highlighted a state law passed recently that doesn't allow cities to ban plastic bags, which he would like to be considered in Fargo to prevent pollution.

He said this firearms issue was about "local control," which is something he said most of the legislators say they believe in.

Commissioner Arlette Preston said she saw it as a measure to take away local control and she didn't want any part of it or to make it appear that the city was giving its stamp of approval. She said with the state legislature regulating parking meters and speeding fines, for example, that "we've had way too much local control taken away already."

City Attorney Erik Johnson, who brought the issue before the City Commission for their input, said he would convey to Koppelman that most don't want anything to do with such a law.

The lone exception was Commissioner Tony Gehrig, who said it was a pushback from the state and that the city overstepped its authority in the zoning law as it relates to any regulation of the sale and purchase of guns.

Koppelman said House Bill 1248 would likely go to committee in the next few weeks.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. 701-451-5665
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