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Should Redwood City impose regulations on gun and ammunition retailers?

Inquiries from two businesses and concern from residents have prompted the city to consider a moratorium on gun sales
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Gun showcase in retail store

The Redwood City Council will consider a prohibition on firearm and ammunition sales that would go into effect immediately, according to the upcoming city council agenda

If approved, the urgency ordinance would establish a moratorium on retail establishments selling firearms or ammunition for up to 45 days, after which it could be extended for a total of up to two years. The ordinance will be considered at the Monday city council meeting and requires a 5/7 vote to pass.

The proposed ordinance comes in response to recent inquiries from two firearm retailers seeking to establish businesses at two separate locations in Redwood City. On Aug. 2, Dumpling Defense submitted an application for a business license to operate at 2135 Roosevelt Avenue, in Roosevelt Plaza. The parcel is owned by the Peninsula Company, which is operated by lawyer and real estate agent Maria Rutenburg.

Dumpling Defense did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

City officials confirmed that a second business had not officially applied for a business license but had inquired on Sept. 12 about opening a gun retail establishment at 648 El Camino Real. City officials, however, did not know or would not disclose the name of the business. 

City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz said that she only learned of the two recent gun retail inquiries in the last couple of weeks. Anticipating that there would be community interest in possible regulations of the sale of firearms and ammunition, she proposed bringing the item to the city council earlier this week.

“We had received inquiries related to businesses locating to sell firearms,” she said. 

Parents have also expressed concern over the proposed gun retailer, which would be located at Roosevelt Plaza, within walking distance of Roosevelt Elementary and Kennedy Middle schools. As of Friday morning, over 700 residents had signed a petition, co-created by Roosevelt School parents Whitney Glockner Black and Jane Beuscher on Oct. 19, calling on Redwood City to pass the urgency ordinance. 

“This is of great concern to us,” the organizers wrote in the letter. The location of the store, which would be located less than 1,000 feet from Roosevelt School, is a primary concern for the parents. “In addition to the school, which houses preschool up through 8th grade, the local library, ice cream store, and other kid-friendly destinations are all in close proximity to the proposed location. These places which cater to children should not be sharing space with a firearms retailer.”

Under the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which was amended in 1995, unauthorized individuals are prohibited from possessing or discharging a firearm in a school zone, meaning on campus or within 1,000 of the school grounds. However, the law makes exceptions for peace officers, security guards and authorized firearms vendors or manufacturers.

Stevenson Diaz said that public pressure was not the reason for exploring the urgency ordinance, she said she was wary of Redwood City repeating what happened in San Carlos.

In Nov. 2017, after much public outrage over the planned opening of a firearms retailer in San Carlos, the city council passed a moratorium on the opening of new gun stores. Turner’s Outdoorsman, a chain primarily based in Southern California, had already signed a 10-year lease and would have become the city’s second gun retailer. Of the five-member council, only Vice Mayor Matt Grocott voted against the indefinite ban.

“We know that in our neighboring city [a proposed gun retailer] spiked interest in having local regulations,” she said. After confirming that Redwood City did not have any gun retail-specific policies, city staff decided “it was appropriate for the city council to weigh in” on whether to impose new regulations, Stevenson Diaz said.

Dumpling Defense, a San Jose based firearms retailer registered as Enclave Outfitters LLC, was launched in 2021. The company “aims to provide accessible and inclusive products, services, and education,” according to its website.

“We believe the firearms shopping, purchasing, and post-purchase experience has much room for improvement. We want to offer everyone the opportunity to purchase a firearm in the most streamlined and user-friendly way,” the website reads.

The pushback Dumpling Defense is facing in Redwood City is not the first roadblock for the gun retailer.

Dumpling Defense submitted a firearms retail permit application to the San Jose Police Department in Nov. 2021, with the goal of opening its first location in late spring or early summer of this year. However, additional requirements and background checks have caused significant delays in their timeline. In June, the retailer filed a cease and desist order to the SJPD, accusing the police department of overstepping its authority by demanding information about members of the applicant’s family.

“We do not see any such authority for the City to require background checks on applicant family members,” the letter, written by Michel & Associates, P.C., read. “We demand that the city cease and desist with these requirements and proceed immediately with processing [the] application.”

In the proposed city ordinance, the Redwood City cited mass shootings, including the recent shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas where 19 students and two teachers died, as reasoning for imposing the moratorium on firearm retailers. 

In order to adopt the ordinance, the city council would have to find “that there is a current and immediate threat to public health, safety or welfare” posed by the gun retailer, according to the staff report. The council will be asked to consider five key questions, including whether gun shops should be treated differently from other retail and whether background checks should be conducted on employees of any such firearms business.

The city council will vote on Monday whether or not to adopt the urgency ordinance. Alternatively, the council could direct city staff to study potential gun retail regulations without adopting the ordinance, or vote to do neither.

No authorized firearms or ammunition stores currently exist in Redwood City, according to a staff report.

The city does not have any regulations specific to firearms retailers. In other words, firearms retail is treated like any other commercial retail business and can be located within any commercial and mixed-use zoning district.

The city council meeting will take place on Mon. Oct. 24 starting at 6 p.m. The meeting agenda and video for remote viewing can be accessed here

Michelle Iracheta contributed to this story.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz. The city recently confirmed that there were no existing restrictions on gun retail and and determined to add the item to the council agenda. To request a correction, contact editor@rwcpulse.com.




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Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast.
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