Commission denies permit to sell firearms

Commission denies permit to sell firearms
Lisa Gunther pleads with the Planning Commission to “save my business” by approving a permit for her store to sell firearms at the March 20 Planning Commission meeting. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — At its March 20 meeting, the Carlsbad Planning Commission denied a local store’s second application for a conditional use permit to sell firearms, and in doing so ensured that Carlsbad would remain without a gun store for the foreseeable future. 

After the Planning Commission and City Council denied her first application in 2012, Lisa Gunther submitted an adjusted application to sell firearms at her store, Gunther Gifts, which is located off of Palomar Airport Road.

Specifically, Gunther applied for a conditional use permit from the commission to be authorized to store, transfer and sell guns as a retail business, even though her store is located in the Planned Industrial zone.

Carlsbad City Planner Shannon Werneke advised the Planning Commission to deny Gunther’s application for the permit, stating that a gun store would not follow the intent of the current industrial zoning in the area.

Werneke explained that all other businesses near Gunther Gifts included industrial operations and corporate offices, and that the retail stores that did exist in the area directly served the daily needs of the industrial tenants.

“Staff does not feel that the sale of firearms fits these retail uses,” Werneke said during her presentation.

Gunther contended that a gun store would serve the security needs of the nearby businesses, specifically the Bank of America which has an armed guard during business hours.

“Every business has a need for security,” she said.

Gunther added that she has the support of the business complex’s master association.

She claimed that as the first gun store in Carlsbad her store would have the opportunity to supply firearms for the Carlsbad Police Department.

Gunther claimed that a number of the industrial businesses in the same complex currently run retail operations without appropriate conditional use permits.

She argued that she should be granted a permit in light of the fact that she was trying to go through the proper city channels while other businesses were not.

Gunther Gifts currently operates as an online gifts and engraving business. Gunther claimed that she has had to drastically downsize her business in light of the economic recession and needs to sell firearms in order to keep her business open.

“I’m asking you to please help my business tonight…to save my business and allow my family to survive in Carlsbad,” she said.

Commissioners were concerned by the idea of denying her permit when other businesses may already be running retail operations in that location.

“Here we have an applicant who is trying to follow the law and do it the right way,” said Commissioner Jeff Segall.

As a separate matter, the commission may consider rezoning the area where the business is located to allow retail operations in the future. However, the change has yet to come before the Planning Commission and would need the eventual approval of City Council as well as the Coastal Commission, a process that would take several months at minimum.

Ultimately, the commission voted to deny Gunther’s application in light of current zoning laws with a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Marty Montgomery voted in favor of granting the permit, asserting that the business did meet the needs of the surrounding industrial area.

“This business can meet the security needs of the surrounding businesses. I like the idea that it can provide services to the Carlsbad Police Department,” he said.


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