Mt. Juliet city commissioners recently deferred a city manager-sponsored ordinance aimed at reducing break-ins at local gun stores and now plan to research the extent to which they can regulate stores' security measures.
The ordinance was prompted by at least four break-ins at nRange, located at 9904 Lebanon Road, over a short period of time. nRange is a full-service training facility that supplies guns, ammo and shooting and training accessories. Mt. Juliet is home to several retail businesses that sell firearms.
Originally, the ordinance stated the Mt. Juliet Police Department (MJPD) and the city's building department would enforce minimum standards of security to protect the business and prevent the theft of firearms. It also said failure to comply with the ordinance would result in a Stop Work Order until the business owner could show proof of compliance.
"We are passionate about this," said District 4 City Commissioner Brian Abston. "It irks me this group would not take it upon themselves when it keeps getting broken into. I personally won't do business with a company that won't put bars up or lock up guns."
However, the ordinance was pulled. District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice explained that, when he contacted State Rep. Susan Lynn, he learned regulating the store's inside operations fell under federal and state jurisdiction.
"It won't allow us to mandate gun stores to make it safe for citizens," he said. "But we can restrict through our codes with things like mandating bars on windows."
Abston said he and other city officials visited the store to try and urge them to take a proactive stance to prevent break-ins and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
"We've had several discussions," he said. "I told them they needed to address keeping guns stored. Academy Sports and WalMart use a safe to store their guns every night."
nRange Manager Ted Murrell also oversees nRange's Madison store.
"I think it is a good idea to use caution in what is required and to whom," he said. "I asked them [city officials], 'What experience do you have?' I am an engineer, and already there were several layers in place."
Murrell said recently he's added seven things "in place" to beef up security, including bars and a new camera system.
"We add new things every week," he said.
Murrell said juveniles who rob gun stores should be tried as adults.
"If they are old enough to do it, they should be jailed as an adult. It all starts at home," he said.
Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin was frustrated. He equated not protecting the contents of a gun store to "leaving money outside the bank."
"Unfortunately, we might have to go the legal route [if things don't get better at nRange]," Martin said.
The city manager had previously said, "We can control the outside of the building with codes ... I don't understand irresponsibility. I don't know the priority not to store guns when they've been broken into repeatedly."
Martin noted only one kind of person will break in and steal guns, saying, "They will do something further and rob our citizens."
Both city officials and Murrell said they will continue to work together to remedy the situation. Abston added the city is also working on code regulations relating to gun stores.
"Discussion, at this point, is the best idea," Abston said.