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Last gun shop may be facing final battle
Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
April 25, 2005 GUNS0425

Mark Koscielski, the owner of the only remaining gun shop in Minneapolis, is entering the final stages of a fight with the city that could shutter his business, at least at its current location.

Koscielski awaits a hearing next month before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Earlier this month, the city sent Koscielski an order telling him to cease operating the gun shop on the 2900 block of Chicago Av. S. by April 18 because it is out of compliance with zoning laws.

It's the latest chapter in a 10-year legal battle with the city for Koscielski. The gun store owner, who ran for mayor in 2001, has frequently needled City Hall leaders. He recently printed up new "Murderapolis" T-shirts to sell as a way to criticize what he considers to be the city's understaffing of the Police Department. He coined the term a decade ago when homicides in the city hit a peak.

Koscielski initially opened a store in 1995, days before the City Council adopted a moratorium on gun shops. The city tried to close his shop down, but federal courts ordered that he be allowed to continue doing business.

As a result, he was given an exemption in the zoning code.

In the summer of 2003, Koscielski's lease at his first location was terminated. He said he was forced to rent a site not in compliance with the zoning code, which requires that gun shops be at least 500 feet from a church, school, park or library and 250 feet from a residence.

Koscielski's Guns and Ammo at 2926 Chicago Av. S. is not zoned for a gun shop.

Council Member Gary Schiff faults Koscielski for "blatantly" opening a shop in an area not zoned for his business.

But Koscielski, a disabled veteran, accuses the city of trying to put him out of business by leaving him no legal options for a site.

"This is my Alamo. I'm really fighting for my livelihood here," Koscielski said.

In 2003, he sued the city, claiming it was illegally trying to zone gun shops out of existence. A federal judge dismissed all but one claim and directed that it be sent to state court.

Assistant City Attorney Burt Osborne said, "We have been litigating with this guy for 2½ years."

Osborne said Koscielski has other options for sites in Minneapolis, but he chose not to move to any of them. "We have not zoned him out of business," Osborne said.

The city shared with the federal judge several "glossy pictures" of locations properly zoned for gun shops, Osborne said.

Koscielski said his appeal is scheduled May 19 before the Board of Adjustment at City Hall. "It looks like it should be coming to a head really soon here," he said.

Lawyer Randall Tigue said he intends file a new lawsuit in Hennepin County district court seeking to compensate Koscielski for the "taking" of the property. He also intends to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a federal judge's dismissal of the case.

Rochelle Olson is at [email protected]
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