Advertisement

Westminster zoning board approves on-premises gun sales for downtown business

Westminster zoning board approves on-premises gun sales for downtown business
Donna Dressel (pink jacket), owner of Geared Up Firearms Training and Accessories Inc. in Westminster, answers questions from the Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 14, as the city considered a bill that would allow Geared Up to sell guns downtown. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times file)

In the first such move under a new ordinance, the Westminster Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to approve a special exemption allowing a downtown business to sell firearms.

Geared Up Firearm Training Courses and Accessories Inc., which has been at 19 N. Court St. since 2016, will now be able to sell firearms on its premises, which had previously been disallowed by the store’s location in the city’s Downtown Business zoning district.

Advertisement

As Donna Dressel — who owns the business along with her husband, John Dressel — testified before the board, the pair have the proper licensing from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Maryland State Police to conduct background checks and make firearms sales. While their business is primarily focused on training — providing Maryland handgun qualifying license training, for example — they also have firearms in secure displays for sale.

But because of the downtown zoning, Donna Dressel testified, the final transaction and delivery of a firearm to a customer has had to be conducted in a different zoning area, even if it is just the alley across from their shop.

“I can meet them at 7-11, I can meet them in the alley, because we are no longer in downtown business,” she said, noting customers have even come to her home as a last resort. “But I can’t let them walk out with the firearm they wanted to purchase unless I make other arrangements.”

Westminster Police Chief Thomas Ledwell said in an interview Wednesday that those off-premise sales had not been an issue and neither would on premise sales at Geared Up.

“Other than being a zoning issue it isn’t an issue for law enforcement,” he said.

Much of the testimony before the board centered on detailing the security and record keeping the Dressels maintain at the location, not only showing it to be a better place for gun purchases than the sidewalk, but that the couple had met the conditions necessary for a special zoning exemption.

That exemption was made possible by Westminster City Ordinance 903, which passed in January and changed the city zoning code from prohibiting firearms sales in the downtown business district, to allowing them as a special exemption. Under that new ordinance, applicants must come before the Board of Zoning Appeals to show they had met requirements such as sufficient security in the form of alarm systems, locks, doors and other measures.

Board Chairman Ed Kramer told the Dressels on Tuesday, “I am satisfied you have met what the ordinance called for.”

Advertisement
Advertisement