For nearly five decades, the law in North Miami Beach has been clear: If you want to open a gun store, you must set up shop in the industrial areas of the city.
But that long-standing rule is about to change. After code enforcement cited a business for selling guns in a shopping plaza on NE 167th Street, the owners sued the city for violating state law. In late December, North Miami Beach commissioners approved a $12,000 settlement with the gun store, Glatze Militum, and agreed to roll back local firearm regulations.
"This is the first [city] we’ve had to sue over a zoning ordinance," says Eric Friday, an attorney for Florida Carry, a gun-rights group that sued along with Glatze. "They were trying to treat gun stores, which are selling an item every American has the right to own under the Constitution, as a heavy industrial business or something akin to strip clubs and tattoo parlors."
The controversy began in December 2016, when Glatze filed to open a store selling guns, knives, and accessories. The city denied the application because of the proposed location, and Glatze was eventually approved to open as a "sporting goods store."
When code enforcement officers discovered the shop was selling guns in September 2017, they issued two code violations, and the city ultimately revoked the store's business permit. In October, the city reported the store to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for operating without a city permit.
Glatze filed suit later that month, saying North Miami Beach's codes violated a 1987 state statute that bans cities from passing their own gun regulations. The two parties negotiated a settlement this past November.
"I think they made a very compelling case," says Jose Smith, North Miami Beach's city attorney. "It’s not necessarily what the city wants to do, but the city is required to do it by virtue of Florida statutes."
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As part of the agreement, the city has promised to "amend its Code of Ordinances to ensure that all retail businesses of comparable sizes are not treated differently because one of the products sold
In theory, that would give any gun shop the right to open in places such as the Intracoastal Mall or the Mall at 163rd Street. In Palm Beach County, police are already raising concerns about a proposal by Dick's Sporting Goods to sell firearms at the Gardens Mall.
In North Miami Beach, Smith says the city would be restricted from challenging any similar situation.
"Florida Carry does not want city governments to have anything written where firearms are regulated by the city," he says. "If folks are not happy with the law that the Florida Legislature passed to preempt cities from regulations, they need to call their legislators and ask them to change the law."