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Los Gatos Leaders Address Controversy Over New Gun Store

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Templar Sports, a gun shop in Los Gatos. (CBS)

Templar Sports, a gun shop in Los Gatos. (CBS)

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LOS GATOS (CBS SF) – The Los Gatos Town Council held a second special meeting Monday night over the controversy of a newly-opened firearms store.

The council’s meeting is a continuation of hearings held a week ago for public input on proposed new laws governing sales of guns and ammunition in Los Gatos, according to City Manager Greg Larson.

Larson told the council last week that city staff had no authority to deny a business license to the store, Templar Sports, at 611 University Ave., since the city lacks a specific law regulating gun sales that it has for businesses such as massage parlors, hair salons and bars.

Also, due to the lack of specific rules in the city code, “Police do not currently have any authority or discretion re: firearms retailers,” Larson wrote in a report to the council.

Templar Sports opened on Dec. 29, not long after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a deranged man killed 20 children and six adults with an assault rifle, triggering a national uproar over sales of assault weapons.

Some residents in Los Gatos, in light of the Sandy Hook killings, have criticized Larson, police Chief Scott R. Seamon and other city personnel for awarding Templar a business license without public hearings or permits required of businesses that do not sell firearms.

Larson reported last week that the chief met personally with Templar representatives on June 18 about their plans for a gun store and the Town Council was notified of Templar’s “sporting goods store with firearms” on Aug. 31.

The store’s business licensee is Rob Chang, also listed as its manager and partner, along with two other owner/directors, according to Larson.

Chang’s San Jose attorney Donald Kilmer said the protests against the store are unfair and that Chang is already prohibited by California law from selling assault weapons.

“It’s almost like the silly season,” said Kilmer. “It’s almost like a witch hunt.”

The storeowner has gone beyond what he is required to do to run a firearm business by requiring all of his employees to pass background checks and be certified as gun safety instructors, Kilmer said.

Templar’s owners delayed opening the business for a couple of weeks after the Sandy Hook shooting, Kilmer said.

“They couldn’t have predicted Sandy Hook,” he said.

Chang has said he received a death threat after last Monday’s council hearing about his store and reported it to the San Jose Police Department, Kilmer said.

The council set up Monday night’s special meeting due to the high volume of people, mostly who are upset about the gun store, who showed to speak last Monday but could not because the allotted time ran out.

Larson on Friday recommended that council members direct staff to set restrictions on where gun and bullet sales may occur in the city, compel gun dealers to obtain special use and police permits and limit permits for gun and ammo sales from homes.

The city might also think about putting gun sales policy to an advisory vote of the public, either at an election on June 4 at the cost to the city of $650,000 or a mail-only ballot election on Aug. 27 that would cost $380,000, Larson said.

The city issued business licenses to Templar starting last June 21 for sporting goods, on Aug. 29 for firearms sales and one on Jan. 9 for retail sales, Larson said.

Larson could not be reached for an interview Monday.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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