Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gun dealers in Dunedin might get business tax refund

DUNEDIN — A Dunedin commissioner wants the city to refund more than $3,600 in business taxes that officials say may have been improperly collected from local gun dealers over several decades.

But first, officials will have to figure out whether the fees were indeed levied in violation of state law.

The issue came to light as Florida cities this summer scrambled to comply by Oct. 1 with a new state law that threatens county and city officials with fines of up to $5,000 and removal from office if they try to enforce local firearms ordinances.

A similar state law has actually been around since 1987. But because there were no penalties on the books, it went largely unenforced — including in Dunedin, where officials have long charged local firearms dealers $150 and gunsmiths $45 in annual business taxes.

Those fees are potentially illegal because the 1987 state law prohibited cities from enacting any gun regulations other than those spelled out by state statute, city attorney Tom Trask said.

To avoid conflict with the state, Dunedin officials voted last month to wipe all language from their local ordinances that attempts to regulate firearms. Trask said residents are still protected by multiple state laws, including ones that forbid firearms in government buildings, prohibit their display or discharge in public, and bar their sale during states of emergency.

Under Florida's statute of limitations, Trask said gun dealers are technically entitled to up to four years' worth of refunds. But Commissioner David Carson said he believes full refunds are in order for anyone who can provide canceled checks or receipts.

"I know you said we're only legally liable for four years and that's all they could basically sue for. But I think there's a bigger question here of . . . morals," Carson told Trask at a recent public meeting.

"If we knew and we passed a city ordinance that is in direct violation of state law, just because it didn't have any teeth in it, that's wrong," he said. "We should refund the entire amount and even talk about interest potentially."

At least three Dunedin businesses — D&D Sales, Florida Survivalist and Keller Rifles — are eligible for refunds, according to a city memo. The matter is scheduled for discussion at next week's commission meeting.

However, Trask on Wednesday sent commissioners a Florida Attorney General's opinion that said business taxes for gun dealers are legal so long as they're not higher than those levied upon other business owners.

A clerk in Dunedin's planning office said this week that he believed gun dealers were charged at a higher rate than other businesses. Neither he nor his supervisor could be reached late Wednesday for comment.

A firearms dealer since 1964, D&D Sales owner Bill Douglas said he began paying Dunedin an annual dealer fee of about $35 in the 1980s. He said it increased to $150 in 1996 because, he was told, Dunedin wanted to stay on par with other jurisdictions.

Douglas alone has paid at least $2,346, based on receipts he has dating to 1995. The unnecessary local gun fees, he said, "significantly impacted" his business, especially considering the roughly $8,300 he also paid in required federal licensing fees during the same time period.

He said reimbursement of the actual fees that were collected illegally is the "fair thing to do."

"I know it wasn't the current commission or staff's fault. They had to go back (and find the error), so I know they'll do the right thing."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at or (727) 445-4153.

>>if you go

Dunedin City Commission

Commissioners will meet at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at City Hall, 542 Main St. Other items on the agenda include:

• Six-month review of traffic data related to the March closing of Patricia Avenue

• Negotiated firefighter raises

• Second public hearing and final vote on license agreement requirements for private businesses operating on city property

Gun dealers in Dunedin might get business tax refund 10/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 7:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  2. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  3. Hernando sheriff: Orlando mother turns in 18-year-old son in pawn shop burglary


    Times Staff Writer

    SPRING HILL — Hernando deputies have arrested a fourth person in connection with a pawn shop burglary, but they really didn't have to do anything to find him.

    Elijah Pickard, 18, of Orlando, was turned in by his own mother in connection with a pawn shop burglary, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office [Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Bob Buckhorn and Tampa council say county vote on Confederate statue doesn't speak for them


    TAMPA — It was the Hillsborough County Commission that voted not to remove a statue honoring the Confederacy, but Tampa officials are worried that the city, not the county, will pay the price.

    The Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-to-3 this week to leave in place a Confederate monument outside the old county courthouse. It was dedicated in 1911 with a speech calling African-Americans "ignorant and inferior'' and saying a president who would appoint a black resident to a job in the South "engenders sectional bitterness, encourages lynchings, injures the negro," and is "a traitor to the Anglo-Saxon race." CHRIS URSO   |   Times