The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to hold off on the permit for a proposed new gun store in Live Oak for 45 days while it studies possible regulations on new gun stores.
People on both sides of the issue packed the County Chambers and gave more than an hour of passionate public testimony on a topic that has been taken up across the country and is one of the most divisive issues in modern politics.
Supervisor Jon Leopold proposed the moratorium after he heard about a shop asking for a permit in the El Rancho Shopping Center on 17th Street in the Live Oak district of unincorporated Santa Cruz.
He told the meeting that when he asked what regulations were in place regarding distance from a school or zoning restrictions, he was told there were none. So this was a chance to review such things in the wake of the Newton, Conn. school shooting and others.
The proposal was met with heavy resistance from gun owners who noted that there already were gun shops in the unincorporated county that were operating under strict federal and state oversight. Shops in Capitola had further city restrictions, such as being approved yearly by the police chief.
"We aren't restricting anybody's ability if they need to purchase a weapon," said Leopold. "I have been concerned as part of my own education about this with the number of home businesses that are selling firearms. I just want to know that if someone is selling firearms in a home in my neighborhood."
Wes Host, a partner in the Santa Cruz Armory gun shop in Ben Lomond, said he thought the politicians were acting based on the wave of controversy sparked by recent mass shootings.
"They have done zero research and are going on emotions," he said. "All of these regulations already exist on a state and federal level."
Some 40 people spoke for two or three minutes each. Some of the discussion didn't get beyond bumper sticker level. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," said one man. "People kill people with guns," countered a woman.
Another man pointed out that in the Bible Cain killed Abel before there were guns. A woman rebuffed that saying that if Cain had a gun he would have killed all of Abel's family.
The line was drawn between those who said they were protecting the right to bear arms and those who said there were too many guns out there already and it was time to stop business as usual.
New Supervisor Zach Friend, a liberal Democrat who worked for the Santa Cruz Police Department for eight years, pointed out that there was more to the conflict than rhetoric.
"You get boxed into one side or the other," he said. "You are either someone who supports the second amendment or you are someone who wants to keep kids safe. Those things aren't mutually exclusive."
Public hearing will continue on this Feb. 12.