Ramsey residents object to request from neighbor to expand home gun business

Several Ramsey residents are fighting back after learning a neighbor has asked the city to allow him to expand his home-based gun business despite allegedly violating terms of his original permit.

The residents of the northwest Twin Cities suburb won a slight reprieve last week when the City Council tabled discussion, but the issue is likely to come back before the council at its next meeting set for March 22.

In 2019, Ramsey awarded Derek Trout a home occupation permit to conduct online sales of firearms inside a single-family home on the 6000 block of NW. 177th Lane. The permit stated firearms must be secured and attended to at all times, that all firearms testing be done off site and that traffic be limited to two round trips per day.

But neighbors say he has not followed the permit’s requirements. They vehemently oppose approval of a permit allowing him to offer in-person sales of firearms, ammunition and accessories, and conduct permit to carry classes on the site.

“It’s not Betty Crocker sales. It’s not Tupperware. It’s guns,” Kelly Schmidt said during the March 8 council meeting. “It is commercial property in a residential situation. That is the big thing. My neighbors said they did not want or move here for a gun shop in their backyard.”

Others such as Arnie Cox said they fear a commercial gun shop would increase traffic, reduce property values and create safety concerns in the neighborhood.

“If someone comes into the neighborhood and wants to buy a house and sees someone who sells guns there, you think they want to buy a house in the neighborhood where a guy is selling guns out of his house?” Cox said during the meeting. “I don’t think so. They are going to think it is unsafe. There is no place for a gun business in a residential area.”

After neighbors complained this year that Trout had violated conditions of his 2019 permit, city staff said he had allegedly moved his business into a pole barn on the property and was conducting in-person sales. The city told him to scale back operations or apply for an amended permit to allow for additional activities, said Brian Hagen, the city’s deputy city administrator and community development director.

Trout said concerns about safety with his company, Peace Keepers Inc., are unfounded. He said he has extensive firearms training through his military background and is certified by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct firearms training and permit-to-carry classes. He said his pole barn is equipped with motion-sensor lighting, video surveillance, automatic locking doors, fire safes and fire extinguishers.

“I remove firing pins and bolts from my firearms,” Trout said. “You cannot make firearms any more safe than we make them.”

Trout said he is asking the City Council to allow a legal business that follows established city practices.

The city’s planning commission on Feb. 24 recommended the council deny Trout’s amended application. But Trout seems to have some support from City Council members.

“I absolutely approve this business,” said Chelsee Howell, who once ran a home-based business. “If the permit does go through, you are going to have to find a way to rectify the situation and be neighbors to one another. I don’t even own a firearm. Look at the applicant’s background. Do you really believe that he doesn’t have the capability to secure his weapons, that he is less qualified and able than you are? We would not be here if he didn’t sell firearms.”

However, Council Member Chris Riley said he does not support approving the permit, saying it would amount to allowing a retail business in a residential area.

“I don’t think that is appropriate,” he said.

The council tabled the discussion when it could not set specific conditions, such as hours of operation or if customers could visit only by appointment, the number of vehicle trips related to the business allowed per day, how often classes could be held and whether a building inspection by police chief review was warranted.

If the amended permit is approved, Schmidt said she is not convinced Trout would follow its terms anyway.

“How can we get into something and befriend him when he blatantly disobeys the rules you set?” she asked.

Maria Flores

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