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Largo man wins right to run gun business out of his apartment

Richard Lander, 36, plans to sell firearms out of his apartment in Largo. He sued the city last July after his permit was denied.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2010)

Richard Lander, 36, plans to sell firearms out of his apartment in Largo. He sued the city last July after his permit was denied.

LARGO — Richard Lander might get to sell guns from his home after all.

The city settled its lawsuit last week with Lander, the Australian transplant who wants to sell firearms over the Internet from the apartment he shares with his wife and four children.

In 2010, Largo Community Development director Carol Stricklin denied Lander's application for a home office permit. Stricklin said the proposed Internet gun shop was "not consistent with maintaining the character of a residential neighborhood."

Lander, 36, sued Stricklin and the city last July. The National Rifle Association's Civil Rights Defense Fund paid his legal tab. No money changed hands under the settlement, which City Attorney Alan Zimmet announced at Tuesday's commission meeting, but the city agreed to approve Lander's permit.

Lander, who works with his wife, Myra, at a postcard marketing company, lives in Brittany Bay Apartments on Seminole Boulevard. Brittany Bay management did not return a call for comment last week. Lander said he has gotten approval for a home business, but admitted he didn't disclose the nature of his business. When asked what he would do if apartment management barred him from starting Fortress Armory (his company's proposed name), Lander said he'd give up rather than move his family.

"I'm pretty much over being concerned about this whole thing," he said. "There's only so much I'm going to fight."

Lander had sought $15,000 or more in damages from Largo for lost income, but dropped the demand in the settlement.

"Our primary goal was to get him his permit to sell firearms," said Ben Cristal, Lander's attorney, who also represents the Tampa Bay Times in workers' compensation cases. "That's what we got, and that's fine with us."

Lander is awaiting a new federal firearms license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau approved him for a license in 2010, but the license languished during the legal battle.

Once licensed, Lander will start looking for guns he can buy, customize for shooting competitions, then resell. Lander would ship his sold guns to licensed firearms dealers near his customers, and dealers would complete applicable background checks, in adherence with federal law.

Lander owns an AK-47 rifle, a pump-action shotgun and a Glock pistol. His company will be modest, he said, and he won't have more guns in his apartment at one time than what can fit in his locked hallway closet.

When this issue first arose in 2010, Largo police Capt. Brian Browne told city management that, despite his personal reservations, he didn't think Largo could legally oppose Lander's business. Zimmet disagreed, though. The lawsuit cost Largo $4,700 in legal fees, according to Assistant City Attorney Mary Hale.

On Tuesday night, Zimmet told commissioners a recent change in state law "significantly reduced the city's ability to regulate anything to do with weapons."

Zimmet didn't specify which law and he was unavailable for comment later in the week. Florida Statute 790.33 bans local governments from enacting gun laws. That law, which makes gun control solely the domain of the state Legislature, has been in place since 1987, though. The Legislature did update it in 2011, adding provisions allowing penalties of up to $100,000 against local governments that try to enforce their own gun laws.

Cristal was surprised to hear Zimmet cited a law as the reason the city gave in. Cristal had a different theory for why the city agreed to settle:

"I think they just realized they were eventually going to have to give in."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Largo man wins right to run gun business out of his apartment 10/06/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 2:52pm]
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