Weapons and Licensing, What’s the Connection?

We often make the argument that a tobacco retailer licensing ordinance gets more police on the streets, in the community and into stores. The licensing fee paid by tobacco retailers supports the youth tobacco decoy operations, but while conducting the stings, officers may see other things going on in the community. Right now, police everywhere are strapped for cash and not able to put as many officers on the street as they might wish. So these tobacco retail licensing fees  can allow them to increase their police presence.

A recent incident in Watsonville brought this issue home. An article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel describes illegal switchblades and brass knuckles being sold by some tobacco retailers.  “The weapons for sale at Cigarette City and Discount Cigarettes came to light during a weekend decoy operation designed to check on tobacco sales to minors.”

What if selling illegal stuff like weapons or drug paraphernalia resulted in the suspension of a retailer’s license to sell tobacco (in addition to other penalties already on the books)?  TALC (Technical Assistance Legal Center) has made a start on this with a “plug-in” to its model licensing ordinance showing how to deal with tobacco retailers selling drug paraphernalia.  In a nutshell, the plug-in says if the retailer is selling drug paraphernalia, the city can suspend the retailer’s license to sell tobacco.  Of course, you have to have a tobacco retailer licensing ordinance with the plug-in passed in your community first. But this plug-in will help broaden the coalition working to pass the ordinance in the first place.

 The Grass Valley City Council (Nevada County) passed a strong tobacco retailer licensing ordinance with the drug paraphernalia plug-in last November. And there is the potential to explore developing something similar for illegal weapons if your community is interested.

-Vanessa Marvin

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