Planning Commission votes 4-1 in favor of firearms sales
With the belief that gun sales in the commercial zones of the Town of Mammoth Lakes would change the character of the town, Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney spoke against allowing this type of operation in this type of zone at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.
Tenney referenced the Town’s General Plan, which, she pointed out she helped write and knows very well, to support her feelings.
“Our codes need to be consistent with the General Plan,” Tenney said. She had reviewed the General Plan and could find nothing that would suggest the sale of firearms would support the vision for the Town as expressed in the General Plan.
The issue was brought to light in March when an individual approached the Town and made an inquiry regarding the permitting process to open a firearms sales business in the commercial or industrial zones of town. At the same time, a current firearms dealer, Eastern Sierra Armory, was looking to move its location from Sierra Manor Road to the Industrial Park.
Until that time, many individuals did not know that there was a firearms sales business already operating in town.
“I object to seeing a firearms dealer, it doesn’t go with my vision of Mammoth,” stated local, Wilma Wheeler. “I don’t have a legal reason, but it might change our community.”
Wheeler referenced the individual who shot a bear within town limits to demonstrate the improper use of firearms.
“A lot of people shoot first and ask questions later,” Wheeler said.
Mammoth resident Christian Van Veen followed up by pointing out that the topic on the agenda was not a gun control issue.
“That would be separate topic for a separate time,” he said. “This is just an issue of compliance with state and federal code.”
Van Veen added that Eastern Sierra Armory helps support the biathlon, which brings business to town.
Clayton Mendel, owner and operator of Eastern Sierra Armory was on hand to answer questions, and reiterated that much of his operation was supporting the biathlon, but he also completes other firearms transactions.
The person who had inquired about opening another firearms sales business had yet to file an application, according to Town Associate Transportation Planner Jessica Morriss. She clarified for the commission that the discussion did revolve around two separate individuals — Mendel, and the second person who had made the inquiry.
“Should I use the word damage … no, it would change the character of our town,” Tenney continued to press. “It is not consistent with the experience we are offering our guests.”
She added that her issues were not crime and gun control. Tenney also stated that she could support this type of business in the industrial zone.
Her argument, however, did not hold up among her fellow commissioners.
“Since when did we ban big box stores,” asked Commissioner Rhonda Duggan, stressing that if Scheels or Cabela’s were looking to set up shop in Mammoth, the Commission would not be having this discussion.
It was also pointed out that firearms used to be sold in some businesses right on Main Street, and that even today, ammunition is sold in commercial zones.
“It’s an activity that occurs in our community,” Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw said. “It’s consistent with recreation activities in the local area and it is already regulated.”
Wardlaw added that staff had researched this type of business in local surrounding areas such as Bridgeport and Bishop, and found firearms sales to be common in these other Eastern Sierra towns.
The Commission voted 4-1 (Tenney voting against) in favor of allowing the sale of firearms as a permitted use in the commercial and industrial zones based on the finding that the use is similar to and no more detrimental than existing uses in those zones.