NEWTON TOWNSHIP – The supervisors on Aug. 12 unanimously approved a motion allowing a resident to operate an Internet-based gun sale business from his home in the township.
The decision came a month after Thomas P. Tolson, of Earl Drive, approached the supervisors seeking a home-occupation conditional use permit to sell firearms ranging from assault rifles to pistols. Tolson’s next step is to seek approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to his lawyer, John Lalley.
Tolson plans to buy the weapons at auctions and estate sales, then sell them on bidding sites like eBay.
The supervisors’ approval came with numerous conditions as a safeguard for the community. The conditions were put in place partly because, in order to get a federal license from the ATF to sell guns over the Internet, Tolson is mandated to also have at least one “person-to-person” sale.
“My primary concern is the safety of the neighborhood,” said Chairman Ronald Koldjeski.
The supervisors also were concerned the person-to-person sales would increase traffic in the area, but one of the conditions says the billing and transferring of firearms must be done off the premises at a post office box.
The other conditions are that:
• no advertising sign may be placed on the property;
• a security system including interior and exterior cameras and alarms be installed;
• the guns must be confined to a safe;
• the hours in which the firearms may be sold face-to-face are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday;
• and the township has the right to monitor the premises to ensure compliance with the conditions.
“If we can live and peacefully coexist with these restrictions … then we can move forward,” Koldjeski said.
Lalley said his client “is going to do things safely and reasonably within the law.”
Tolson had previously told the board he would have no more than 65 guns on the premises. That was initially going to be among the conditions. But Lalley said the township has no legal right to limit the amount of firearms kept on the property as long as Tolson is abiding federal and state laws.
“You can’t make that a restriction,” Lalley said. Doing so would be a “gross violation” that would restrict the business, he said.
Koldjeski said Tolson had agreed to the gun limit at last month’s hearing.
“That doesn’t mean he can’t have more, though,” Lalley said.
In addition to the township’s conditions, the ATF can conduct unannounced inspections of the property. “They have a right to show up any time,” Tolson said.
Tolson also told the board he has no plans “at this time” on selling ammunition, but that could change.
In order to sell ammunition, though, Tolson would have to apply for another conditional use permit, said township solicitor Joseph Sileo.
About a dozen residents attended the meeting, but there was no opposition to the business.
Taxpayer Jon Coons said he had been concerned about increased traffic in the neighborhood, but that issue was addressed.
“I have no objection to Mr. Tolson’s proposal,” he told the board.