Maryland Town Blocks Federally Licensed Gun Dealer From Starting Small Home Business

'It is a violation of my constitutional rights'

Credit: City of Mount Airy Facebook page

The town council of Mount Airy, Maryland voted this week to block a federally licensed gun dealer from operating a small, appointment-only gun business out of his home.

In a vote of four to zero with one abstention, the council rejected Michael Wonsala's request for a zoning change to allow him to operate a small gun business focused on the repair and sale of collectible and historic firearms out of his house. The council now plans to update the town code to prohibit firearms sales.

The vote ended a process Wonsala began 15 months ago, and the planned update to the town code may put an end to his efforts to start a side business.

"Seems unfair to deny my application then pass an ordinance to prohibit it, don't you think?" Wonsala told the Washington Free Beacon.

Wonsala, whose family has owned a New Jersey gun shop for more than 40 years, is a federal firearms licensee. Any sales he makes to private citizens would require a FBI background check before it could be completed. Federal gun laws allow licensees to sell firearms out of their homes, but only if they comply with local zoning ordinances.

Wonsala said he has a full-time job and isn't too concerned about financial hardship because of the council's decision. Instead, he's angered by what he sees as a violation of his Second Amendment rights.

"My opinion is that it is a violation of my constitutional rights. It was said to me that if it wasn't a gun, it was a widget, we would have granted you the permit," Wonsala said.

Opponents of Wonsala's zoning change said they were more concerned about what other gun stores might open if they allowed his to open.

"[People] look at it at face value and think ‘Oh, this one individual wants to do this. It should be fine. I don't have an issue with what he is proposing,'" Mount Airy Councilman Scott Strong told WTOP earlier this month.

In Strong's estimation, the zoning change Wonsala sought could lead to even more gun dealers opening businesses.

"Essentially, somebody could theoretically get their FFL, get a Class 3, and next thing you know, they're selling machine guns out of their house," he told the news outlet. "And that draws concern from me … it is not this individual saying ‘I want to sell this one type of weapon'—it's the next person that comes behind him and says he wants to sell AR-15s."

Wonsala isn't satisfied by these explanations.

"To me, it is a sad day in America that our freedoms are being erased in front of our eyes, little by little" he said. "My father has had this business since 1970 and I cannot bring it to Maryland."