The Westminster Common Council faces an interesting dilemma as it will soon be debating whether to move forward with an ordinance it unanimously introduced Monday, which would allow the sale of firearms to be permitted in the Main Street and downtown area under a special exception, or hold off until the city can complete a comprehensive rezoning.

The decision might be a difficult one even if there wasn’t the firearms aspect, which may cause the matter to become politicized as discussions move forward. To be clear, this isn’t a Second Amendment issue, it’s a zoning issue.


Westminster Council introduces bill to allow sale of firearms downtown

Westminster's City Council voted unanimously Dec. 10 to introduce a bill that would allow the sale of firearms as permitted use under special exception to the city’s Main Street and historic downtown area. Similar legislation passed in February reopened the door for tattoo parlors in downtown.

Specifically, the special exception would immediately be to the benefit of Geared Up Firearms Training and Accessories Inc., which is located on North Court Street. As the name implies, it currently offers training courses and sells firearms accessories, but would like to be able to sell guns in the future.

Regarding the ordinance, it’s well-written, taking into account numerous safety precautions including but not limited to high-quality video surveillance, an advanced alarm system, and higher-grade doors, gates, glass and locks, for the sale of firearms.

While we have no issues with allowing for firearms sales in downtown Westminster, as they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.

Like it are not, even in Carroll County, there are members of the general public who would be turned off by a gun shop, just in the way some people might be disgusted if a head shop or an adult book store were to open in downtown. It would be especially troubling if one of these kinds of businesses were to open up next to the Boys & Girls Club, to borrow the example used by Mayor Joe Dominick on Monday night.

Comprehensive rezoning for the entire city, and specifically the large Downtown Business Zone, would be the best way to address the matter of firearms sales in downtown, among any other challenges presented by existing zoning. By doing so, the city could break down the Downtown Business Zone into smaller, more specific zones for certain uses, including firearms sales.

Unfortunately, comprehensive rezoning is a time- and resource-consuming process, and one that the city currently does not have a timetable for beginning, let alone completing. And Westminster council members say the city’s planning department is currently swamped now that the city has more water resources and is starting to grow again.

Effectively, delaying the matter until comprehensive rezoning can be completed is delaying a decision indefinitely.

Public hearing sees support for Westminster cannabis dispensary

A public hearing held Monday evening heard public comment on whether the city council should adopt a zoning map amendment that will allow for a medical cannabis dispensary in Westminster.

Perhaps there is a solution that could be considered that provides a temporary solution until comprehensive zoning can be undertaken: an overlay zone.

When the State of Maryland legalized medical marijuana, many local jurisdictions, including Westminster, created a marijuana overlay zone to limit where growing, distribution and sales operations could be located. Perhaps a firearm sales overlay zone could be created in conjunction with an ordinance to remove the overall restriction of gun sales in the Downtown Business Zone, limiting the areas where these shops may crop up in the future. Effectively, it would serve the same purpose as comprehensive rezoning, creating a smaller district where legal gun sales could occur downtown.

Doing so would seem to appease all parties’ concerns with approving a special exception, while allowing a more immediate solution without waiting for full comprehensive rezoning to be completed. It’s a potential solution we’d like to see the Mayor and Common Council, as well as the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, consider.