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Antiquated laws were in place when Brentwood gun shop opened

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A Brentwood gun and repair shop that operated from a home on Tuxey Avenue and exploded last week had opened before municipal laws were put in place to regulate home-based businesses, officials said.

Frank Mihalovich, 69, owner and operator of Frank's Guns, was the only person inside the home on Feb. 6, when an explosion occurred around 5 p.m. He remained in UPMC Mercy Hospital, Uptown, on Tuesday in critical condition, after suffering burns to his head and back.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with Allegheny County Fire Marshall's office, continue to investigate.

“We want to make sure it's done safely,” said ATF Special Agent Steve Bartholomew, who noted the investigation will be a methodical process and include a review of utility lines. It is unknown how long the investigation will take.

Mihalovich, the Brentwood Emergency Medical Services board of director's president, is well-known, very active and well-liked in Brentwood, Mayor Dennis Troy said.

“I never heard a bad word about him, and if I did hear one, I wouldn't believe it,” Troy said.

Firefighters were unable to enter the home at first, because ammunition was detonating, officials said.

Mihalovich joined Brentwood Emergency Services in 1980 and held many duties, serving as a certified medical technician who went out on ambulance calls and conducted engineering work at the station, said Brentwood Emergency Medical Services operation supervisor John Balkovec.

“He's a funny guy. He's got a big heart. He'll do anything for you. He's just that guy,” Balkovec said. “He's always been active, for the 30 years he's been here.”

Mihalovich also put safety first, especially when it came to his gun shop, Balkovec said.

Balkovec, who Allegheny County assessment records show purchased his Tuxey Avenue home in 1966, has an ATF license to serve as a gun dealer from his home.

Brentwood leaders adopted new zoning regulations in the 1980s that could have required Mihalovich to receive a conditional use permit to operate a “no-impact home-based business” from the single-family residential zoning district, borough Manager George Zboyovsky said.

Because Frank's Guns opened before the change in laws, Mihalovich was “grandfathered-in” and did not have to follow the conditional use procedure, the manager said.

A “home occupation” — like a business office or law firm operated out of a home — also is permissible by receiving conditional use approval from the borough, Zboyovsky said.

The hunting rifles, shot guns and pistols found in Mihalovich's home were taken to the Brentwood police station for safe keeping, police Chief Robert Butelli said.

Once an inventory is taken and Mihalovich is well-enough to retrieve them, the guns will be returned to him, Bartholomew said.

“It's not as if he's an ammunition depot,” Troy said. “He probably didn't have more (guns) than the average hunter.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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