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Largo denies man permit to sell guns from apartment

Richard Lander, 34, wants to sell guns over the Internet from his Largo home, including a modified semiautomatic AK-47 assault rifle with scope and a Charles Daly pump action 12-gauge shotgun. He says the city’s denial of a small business permit is a violation of his rights.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Richard Lander, 34, wants to sell guns over the Internet from his Largo home, including a modified semiautomatic AK-47 assault rifle with scope and a Charles Daly pump action 12-gauge shotgun. He says the city’s denial of a small business permit is a violation of his rights.

LARGO

Richard Lander's goal wasn't terribly ambitious. He just wanted to begin selling firearms over the Internet.

It would just be for a short time, too — until he could save up enough to open a storefront of his own.

"I'm never going to send my kids to college doing what I'm doing now," said Lander, a manager at a postcard business. "And you don't see any gun stores closing down."

But after completing what he thought would be the hardest part of starting his operation the right way (obtaining a federal firearms license), the 34-year-old Largo man has run into a roadblock: the city's community development department denied him a home office permit.

A home gun business — no matter how small — "is not consistent with maintaining the character of a residential neighborhood," said community development director Carol Stricklin.

The denial has Lander upset. After all, if he lived in unincorporated Pinellas County, he would already be listing AR-15 rifles and Glock handguns on sites like Auction Arms.com (a site that in form and function is very similar to eBay).

"The American Dream was built on growing commerce, not restraining it," Lander said.

The father of four wants to appeal the ruling, but he may not, due to the associated fees of about $300.

Other than community development's permit denial, Lander's path is mostly clear.

When consulted about the legality of selling firearms from an apartment building (Lander lives in a large complex off Rosary Road near Highland Avenue), Largo police Capt. Brian Browne said there was nothing illegal (according to state law) about Lander's objective.

"It does cause concern, but if it meets all legal requirements, apartment complex approval, and the ATF authorizes this, I do not think we can legally oppose it," Browne wrote in an e-mail to commissioners and the city manager.

Due to safety concerns and crimes that occurred at the complex, Browne wrote in another e-mail to community development staffer Barbara Metcalf that the Police Department was opposed to the business "on principle," but conceded "that is not enough justification."

Lander was granted a federal firearms license from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last month.

The license required agents from the bureau to interview him, conduct a background check and visit his residence.

Lander says he contacted his apartment management company's headquarters in Texas and received verbal permission.

He is waiting on the written proof, he says, to show the city.

Stricklin, the community development director, said Lander's business failed to meet standards that a home business "not generate any nuisances or hazard."

When asked about the specific criteria that an application is judged by, Stricklin said since Lander has expressed a desire to appeal, she would not comment further.

Other home businesses that the city may deem a nuisance, such as pornography sales, are regulated by specific language in city codes. Firearms sales are not specifically mentioned.

While Lander has not begun selling guns yet, he already maintains a personal firearms collection, including an AK-47.

Because of his wife, Myra, and their four young children, Lander keeps his weapons under lock and key in a secure area of their apartment.

Lander was raised in Australia. He said other than his wife, who he met on a trip to the United States and moved here to marry in 2001, guns were one of the things that attracted him to America in the first place.

"It's virtually impossible to get a gun in Australia," he said. "I was very happy to be in a country that frowns on that restrictiveness."

. Fast facts

Online sale of firearms governed

According to federal law, a gun cannot be simply purchased online like vintage teacups on eBay. If a buyer orders a gun online, the weapon is sent to a licensed arms dealer near the purchaser. The local arms dealer then conducts the appropriate background checks for a fee, and the weapon is transferred. Laws vary by city and state.

Largo denies man permit to sell guns from apartment 10/19/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:11pm]
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