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Astoria balks at ban on used gun sales at pawn shops

City Council may consider stricter regulations
By Derrick DePledge

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 19, 2017 8:40AM

Last changed on December 19, 2017 9:51AM

Astoria may impose stricter regulations on pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers.

Danny Miller/The Daily Astorian

Astoria may impose stricter regulations on pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers.

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Astoria will not ban the sale of used guns at pawn shops, but the city might impose stricter regulations on pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to discourage trading in stolen goods.

City Councilor Cindy Price called for a vote on a ban Monday night, but was rebuffed when no other councilor agreed to second her motion. At a November work session, Price and Mayor Arline LaMear had discussed potential restrictions on pawn shops and used gun sales because of a new pawn shop opening on Commercial Street downtown.

Price tied the issue to the prevalence of guns in the United States and the deadly toll from gun violence.

“I think it’s an important statement for Astoria to make,” she said. “At least it’s important to me.”

The mayor and other city councilors were uncomfortable with a ban, but did direct staff to draft possible regulations on pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers.

Interim Police Chief Geoff Spalding told the City Council that existing regulations do not go far enough to ensure effective oversight. The new rules could involve permitting and licensing, holding periods and computerized transaction systems. The city may purchase software that would allow police to view transactions to search for stolen property and guns.

Several secondhand dealers said they are already burdened by regulation and pressed the City Council to explain what problem the city is trying to solve.

“We all work together, because nobody wants bad things to happen,” said Neil Christensen of Gun & Boot & Gear, which sells used guns out of M&N Workwear in Suomi Hall in Uniontown.

Bernie Bjork, a former commercial fisherman and Port of Astoria commissioner who has a building with the secondhand store Mallternative on Marine Drive, warned of over-regulation.

“Rules and regulations is what got our current president elected,” he said of President Donald Trump. “Way too many rules and regulations.”

The City Council voted 4-1 to ask staff to come up with new regulations, with Councilor Zetty Nemlowill casting the only “no” vote. Nemlowill said afterward in a text that she does not object to a better registry system for pawn shops but would not apply it to secondhand dealers. “Imposing a potentially costly and time-consuming task on small business owners of secondhand stores in Astoria is unjustifiable,” she wrote.

In other business Monday night, the City Council:

• Granted a 2.5 percent pay raise to City Manager Brett Estes after a performance evaluation held in executive session.

Estes, who was hired as city manager in 2014, will now earn $125,838.

• Approved a $29,262 contract with Arbor Care Tree Specialists of Astoria to remove hazardous trees at several city parks.

The vote was 4-1. Price voted “no” because of concerns about cost and the inclusion of a Douglas fir at Shively Park she does not believe should be cut down.

• Adopted an ordinance that expands the police department’s ability to tow vehicles for noise complaints, like car alarms.


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