Redwood City residents encouraged city officials to take as restrictive an approach as possible when it comes to regulating the sales of firearms and ammunition during a community meeting on the matter Thursday night.

“I think it’s fine for us to stand bold,” said Merrily Robinson, a lifelong Redwood City resident. “You’re standing up for citizens.”

About a dozen residents gathered at City Hall Thursday, March 23, to share their views on how they’d like to see land use policy used to regulate firearm and ammunition sales. The conversation was prompted by a moratorium councilmembers put in place last year.

Councilmembers initially approved an emergency 45-day moratorium on firearm sales in late October in response to two inquiries from two separate gun retailers interested in opening up shops, one in Roosevelt Plaza and the other at 648 El Camino Real. By late November, the council voted to extend its moratorium by another 10 months, giving staff time to further research the issue and conduct public outreach.

During Thursday’s meeting, staff presented a plan that would prohibit firearm and ammunition stores from locating within 300 feet of areas with sensitive uses such as schools, churches, public parks, child care facilities, youth centers, places of worship and libraries.

The ordinance would also prohibit shops within 600 feet of Courthouse Square, a common gathering place for city events which fronts businesses like the Fox Theatre and the San Mateo County History Museum and is just across the street from County Center.

Under the proposal, shop owners would also have to install video surveillance and alarm systems, obtain a police and conditional use permit, provide annual inventory reports to the Redwood City Police Department including disclosures of lost or stolen inventory and would post signs indicating a prohibition on minors entering the shops unaccompanied by an adult.

Advocating for safety

Meeting participants questioned multiple policy proposals. Some worried firearm shops would normalize the ownership of guns and asserted routes to school should be considered a sensitive use while others said the dealers shouldn’t be located anywhere in retail corridors like El Camino Real where restaurants and other shops are located.

Robinson argued minors should not be allowed in gun shops at all. And Nancy Olson argued 300 feet was far too close for a shop to locate near a school and asserted the distance should be closer to 1,000 feet.

“When we’re talking about bringing guns to sensitive areas and they can walk home and pass it, I just think it’s obscene,” said Olson, a retired teacher concerned for student mental health and safety, particularly following the growing frequency of shootings and threats at school campuses. “We have a chance to send that message that their mental health counts for something.”

More than 20 gun retailers are located within 30 miles of the city, the closest being on the border of Redwood City and San Carlos. Three additional unconfirmed sellers are also either located in the city or in unincorporated North Fair Oaks with one having an active business license with the city, staff previously said.

Balancing interests

But City Attorney Veronica Ramirez said recent rulings by the Supreme Court signals their interpretation of the Second Amendment to be that citizens have a right to purchase firearms in their communities, calling any virtual ban on gun shops “problematic from a constitutional perspective.”

Assistant City Manager Michelle Poché Flaherty said city staff are trying to balance competing interests and wishes from the community and arguing a buffer beyond 300 feet could be too restrictive. Staff had sustained a 1,000 foot ban, she said, but ultimately found that it would be too restrictive, giving the same explanation for why staff wasn’t suggesting a 600-foot buffer.

Max Discher, a Redwood City resident who moved back to the city with his wife with hopes of raising their children there, said he’d prefer to not have gun shops in the city at all but acknowledged officials needed to approach the issue pragmatically.

He suggested shop owners should pay a fee that could be used for community education. The city took a similar approach when regulating cannabis retail. Discher also suggested that shops black out their windows to prevent children from looking in and window shopping — a potential solution for concerns firearms would become normalized.

“I’d like to see a little more effort by the city to address some of the probably more connected causes to tragic gun violence, mental health issues come to mind, substance abuse issues, the things that make people unstable enough to actually go and do these harmful things,” Discher said.

A similar fee approach was used by the city when regulating cannabis shops, which are required to pay a $29,530 permit renewal fee, $10,000 of which for cannabis drug education prevention for children and youth. Those shops are required to be at least 600 feet away from sensitive uses and minors are prohibited from entering. The council also limited the number of cannabis retailers permitted in the city to no more than six.

Staff plan to continue seeking community input through May. A meeting similar to Thursday’s will be held in Spanish 6-7:30 p.m. April 5 at 1400 Roosevelt Ave. A survey seeking additional information on the public’s views on firearm sales also opened on March 12 and will remain open until April 10.

The community feedback will be taken into consideration before staff presents the proposed land use changes to the Planning Commission May 2. The policy proposal will then go before the City Council May 22. Ultimately, Poché Flaherty and Ramirez said the decision will be up to the council to make and encouraged the public to continue participating in the discussion.

Visit to learn more about the city’s efforts around regulating firearm and ammunition retailers.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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(2) comments


Interesting point about restrictions on pot shops. Liquor stores, I think, are limited by location. i wonder if other businesses are. would be a good story for the DJ.

Terence Y

Three quick conclusions from this article… More business for those with shops around Redwood City, more business to those selling ghost gun components, and making it more difficult for Redwood City folks to obtain self-defense “tools” (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch since folks can drive less than 30 miles away, but still valid). Meanwhile, Florida appears to soon become the 26th state in the union to allow constitutional carry and the 46th state to allow open carry.

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