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Superior commission puts hold on expanding firearm sales

City officials will consider more options to limit gun sales in highway commercial zones after a lengthy debate on special-use permits.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Superior’s Plan Commission is taking time to consider several options before deciding whether firearms sales would be allowed in commercial highway zones.

Options the commissioners discussed Wednesday, July 20, include issuing a special-use permit that would establish the requirements for selling firearms in highway commercial zones and local licensing requirements for firearms sellers to limit the number of special-use permits that would be issued.

The Superior City Council referred the matter back to the commission rather than rejecting a proposal that would have made firearms sales a permissible use in the highway commercial zones.

Firearm sales are permitted in the city's central business district and manufacturing zones.

“There was some expressed support for a special permit,” Mayor Jim Paine said. “It’s still your privilege to do whatever you want; those of us on the council though do have a duty to remind you though what the council is likely to approve.”

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Under the proposed terms of the special-use permit, the business would have to be in good standing with state and federal firearms sale licenses, the sales would only be a portion of the business’ commerce profile, sales would be limited to 12 days per calendar year, and signage concerning firearms sales would not be allowed.

The commission amended the initial proposal that would have allowed sales six days per calendar year.

However, that was the only action the plan commission took during more than an hour of discussion.

Commissioner Garner Moffat questioned how a special-use permit would be enforced. Moffat favored a special-use permit when the plan commission initially approved allowing firearm sales in highway commercial zones.

Businesses would apply for a special use-permit, and if they don’t meet all the conditions, the permit could be denied, said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director.

“In the state of Wisconsin … if they meet all of the conditions, you have to approve it, and the council has to approve this,” Serck said.

“Looking at the ordinance change for access to C2, we of course discovered it opens access to East End, Allouez, Itasca into Billings Park,” said Councilor Jenny Van Sickle. “I think that was a primary concern for councilors relieved to see this come back to plan commission. I was hoping to see something that removed it all together. Most of my district is on the highway and it’s very tightly residential.”

Van Sickle said she doesn’t favor a special-use permit in highway commercial zones, and any special-use permit should restrict proximity to residential properties, playgrounds, churches and day care providers.

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Councilor Nicholas Ledin agreed that permits should limit where firearms sales are located.

“I think if we get into proximities and things of that nature, I don’t think they’re going anywhere in C2 just because of how we’re laid out,” Serck said.

Commissioner Dennis Dalbec said he wasn’t in favor of proximity restrictions. After all, people with a federal firearms license are allowed to sell firearms from their homes provided they don’t have people coming to their house, he said. Serck clarified that sellers Dalbec mentioned use the Internet and the mail to facilitate purchases.

Paine said the commission has to consider that more businesses would be selling firearms if the permit is approved than the one business that relocated to a highway commercial zone and has to rent space for infrequent firearm sales.

“My worry is that this opens it up,” Ledin said. While Ledin said he doesn’t mind helping the one business, he said he is concerned about opening up firearm sales without more restrictions.

Paine asked if it would be possible to license the business locally and cap the number of licenses in the city to limit the proliferation.

“It adds another layer of discretion, actually,” Paine said.

The commission held the matter in committee to give city administration time to explore proximity restrictions and licensing options.

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The committee will take up the matter when it meets Aug. 17.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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