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Council denies appeal for online firearms business

CARLSBAD — Much to the discouragement of small business owners Gregg and Lisa Gunther, City Council ruled to deny an appeal to issue a conditional use permit, which would have allowed them retail status to store, transfer and sell firearms online. 

The Council majority denied the appeal in an effort to “protect the zoning laws.”

The application for the conditional use permit was to allow for the business to obtain a “retail” designation as required by the state and dealers for the sale of firearms.

Gunther has been in business for 15 years in Carlsbad and owns the building on the 2700 block of Loker Avenue where the zoning is slated as planned industrial.

The Planning Commission denied the conditional use permit in July because the proposed retail use wasn’t consistent with the general plan. The appeal hearing was delayed from August to Tuesday’s meeting for the applicant to work with the city to craft a condition of approval.

As part of the condition of approval, any sale of firearms would have been done on an appointment only basis and not allow for walk-in customers. The permit would also be slated for five years.

“The primary purpose of the business is to sell online,” said L. Sue Loftin, who is representing the Gunthers. “In order to get a permit to finalize their permit with the state, they had to have retail added to their zoning.”

Gunther operates a storage, distribution and wholesale facility for multiple online businesses at the site, including Gunther Gifts, which sells specialty engraved gifts and Gunther Watch, Swiss Knives Express and Gunther Quality Products.

Gunther had applied for a conditional use permit to expand his business to include Gunther Guns, an online retail business with a “showroom” under 1,000 square feet in size and segregated from the rest of the warehouse space where Gunther Gifts operates and stores its other goods.

“I came before the city needing help,” Gunther said. “It seems to me that they’ve done everything in their power not to help a business in need. We deserved their support, we got everything but that.”

He said opening the firearms business was their last resort to try to survive.

“We’ve been doing this for four months now, with the City Council,” Gunther said. “This has been the hardest thing we’ve ever tried to accomplish. If this was almost anywhere else in the country we would’ve been in business a year ago. Carlsbad seems to be one of the most difficult cities in the country to do business with. And I’m really discouraged,” he said.

Following the Council’s ruling, Loftin said they can still file a writ of mandate, which could change the language in the ordinance. She said any further action taken will be discussed with her clients.

There are currently no retail gun shops in the city of Carlsbad.