SOLANA BEACH — Presented with a petition from a small local church requesting action on five items to potentially reduce the likelihood of gun violence, City Council members opted at the April 24 meeting to limit their involvement to a discussion and put the matter on a future agenda if there is a request to do so.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito submitted a petition to council on March 13 signed by 83 of the approximately 250 members of the church. Most of the signers live in cities outside of Solana Beach.
The petition asked council members to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, or a similar organization, revise the general plan so only one business that sells firearms is allowed in the city, consider a gun buyback program with other North County municipalities and the Sheriff’s Department, support the 22nd District Agricultural Association’s responsible policies and extensive policing at gun shows and work with the 22nd DAA to eliminate future gun shows, a move not currently being considered by its board of directors.
“The state of California has the most restrictive regulations when it comes to firearms and guns,” City Attorney Johanna Canlas said, noting there are also other laws that come into play when discussing firearms sales and possession, including the Second Amendment, state licensing restrictions and requirements and local land use regulations.
She said the city can’t license or register firearms, regulate the manufacture, sale or possession of imitation firearms or require individuals to obtain licenses to purchase, own, possess, keep or carry certain firearms.
Local governments can restrict their sale to certain zones and study the proximity with other activities, Canlas added. They may also require use permits for sales.
David Miller, minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said after the Dec. 14 shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his members “wanted to do something.”
“This was something they could do,” he said. “Help us locally. Please help us change this in some way.”
But most of the other dozen speakers opposed the petition requests, especially limiting the number of businesses that could sell guns in the city.
“This is America,” Jonathan Mighdoll said. “We have the freedom of choice.”
“It’s not the American way to limit business,” John Hersen added.
“It’s extremely unfair to pick winners and losers when it comes to local businesses,” Brian Brady said. “Let the state and federal legislation take care of these issues. If people in Solana Beach don’t want gun shops in Solana Beach you’ll find out soon enough because they’ll stop shopping there.”
“I find it interesting that a church whose existence is protected by the First Amendment would argue on having government interfere with the very next amendment,” Paul Breed said. “It just strikes me as very hypocritical to go down that path.
“Maybe I would only like one church in Solana Beach instead of the wide variety but I don’t think it’s my right to ask that there only be one church,” he added.
Lynne Talley, a church member, said she didn’t realize limiting gun shops might not be something the city could do, but she urged council members to at least consider joining Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national organization focused on protecting the rights of Americans to own guns while fighting to keep criminals from possessing them illegally.
“The local level is the place where action really begins,” Talley said.
“It makes sense to be against something that’s illegal,” Mayor Mike Nichols said, adding that he needed more information before joining the group. His colleagues agreed.
They also supported the idea of a gun buyback program but said the city doesn’t have the money to fund it.
“The folks that want to keep their guns don’t have to sell them back,” Councilman Tom Campbell said.
Council members generally did not support the other requests. “I don’t think that I have the right to tell someone they shouldn’t be able to buy a gun,” Campbell said.
They all agreed with Campbell the 22nd DAA already does a “fantastic” job hosting the gun shows, but partnering with the group to eliminate the events would be futile.
“They are so not interested,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “It’s one of their biggest moneymakers.”
Councilman Dave Zito said cities already regulate some businesses, such as liquor or adult entertainment stores, to ensure they are located in appropriate areas. He suggested adding gun stores to that list as part of the current general plan discussion.
His colleagues agreed to address it in the ad hoc meetings. Council members will also review the Mayors Against Illegal Guns application and discuss it at a future meeting if there is interest.
Nichols assured the church members their efforts were not wasted.
“I think you did accomplish something,” he said. “Having the conversation is something. It does bring awareness to the issue and it makes people talk. And the more we talk, the more we can understand. And the more we can understand, the better we can address these things in the future.”
Gregg Stockwell, owner of Direct Action Solutions gun store in Solana Beach, talked with Miller after the meeting and plan to meet for lunch to discuss ways they can work together on the issue.
“We’re going to have a creative and innovative conversation about the possibilities,” Miller said.