Firearm sale ordinance sparks heated debate

Tedi Mathis

After two rounds of unanimous votes from the Ames City Council, an ordinance halting sales of firearms in residential areas passed on to a third hearing.

On Sept. 25, attendees of the City Council meeting watched as one Ames resident, Greg Seaton, defended his small, online and phone-based business selling firearms. Seaton described his business as one that is both safe and self-regulated.

Outlining his firearms sales for the council, Seaton stressed his precautions and his rights in maintaining his business. Seaton explained that on average, he only sells two to three guns per month.

Neighbors in protest spoke after Seaton to express concern for their safety, the value of their homes and the lack of regulation for such a business. One neighbor, John Lamont, provided the council with a petition from neighbors to push through the ordinance, bearing 127 signatures.

On Tuesday, Ames residents crowded into the City Council meeting, leaving few chairs in the chambers empty.

Mayor Ann Campbell opened the second hearing of the gun ordinance by issuing a reminder to those in attendance that only new information may be presented, and opened the hearing for discussion.

Neighbors, members of the National Rifle Association, the president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, and other concerned Ames residents took their turns at the podium. The common theme seemed to be whether such an ordinance encroaches on the second amendment.

The first to speak was Judy Parks, assistant city attorney, who explained the gun ordinance and addressed the ordinance’s constitutionality. Parks stressed that the gun ordinance is a zoning decision, not a second amendment issue.

Many others throughout the night backed Park’s statement. Although Seaton could not be present at the second meeting, a neighbor, Luke Wadsley, was there to represent him.

Wadsley read a prepared statement from Seaton and reaffirmed what Seaton had previously stated.

“Property values have steadily increased since the 1990s,” Wadsley said, making Seaton’s point that home-based gun sales do not have a negative affect on property values.

Jeff Burkett, president of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, also supported the legitimacy of home-based firearms businesses. Burkett made the point that most arguments made for the ordinance were emotionally based, and there was no proof of the business being a nuisance or decreasing property value.

Burkett asked the council to dismiss the ordinance due to the lack of facts to back it.

The gun ordinance would be one of the first of its kind in Iowa, though similar to ordinances in Ankeny which ban gun sales in certain zones near schools and other places inhabited by small children.

The third hearing for the passing of this ordinance will be at the Oct. 23 City Council meeting.