Reflecting on why we oppose the gun show |

Reflecting on why we oppose the gun show

The Union StaffAmanda Wilcox
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It is February, the month in which the annual gun show occurs at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. However, this winter the show will not take place.

My husband, Nick, and I have spoken out in opposition to gun shows and I would like to explain our position. We believe that firearms should not be in the hands of criminals, children, the mentally ill, or those engaged in domestic violence. Certain laws are designed to keep guns out of inappropriate hands and these laws must be obeyed and enforced.

We appeared before the Fair Board in December 2001 and requested that the board not approve a contract with U.S. Gun Traders to produce a gun show in February 2002. We noted that gun shows bring together under one roof willing sellers and willing buyers without adequate oversight. We pointed out that nationwide, gun shows are known to be a forum for illegal activity and a means for firearms to fall into inappropriate hands. We also stated that firearms pose a significant public safety hazard, particularly when in the wrong hands.

The board expressed full confidence in the promoter, and we were assured there would be compliance with all applicable laws. The contract was approved with one member opposed.

Undercover agents from the California Department of Justice came to the 2002 gun show and immediately observed banned weapons. They discovered that a vendor who was not a properly licensed gun dealer sold two illegal semi-automatic rifles with attached grenade-launchers. Furthermore, the weapons were sold with no background check, no required 10-day waiting period, and without being checked at the exit by gun show staff. The charges have been fully reported in this newspaper, and criminal proceedings resulted in conviction of both the seller and promoter.

Last fall, this same promoter approached the Fair Board again, hoping to produce a gun show this month. At the last minute, the promoter withdrew his request. We had planned to appear again, expressing our opposition.

We feel justified in our original statement that gun shows provide a venue for firearms to fall into inappropriate hands. We do not know if the buyer of the two illegal assault-style rifles was an appropriate gun owner or not. Furthermore, the seller and promoter did not know, nor did they apparently care, if these weapons were possibly being transferred to a prohibited person. We believe that when state and federal laws are not adhered to at local gun shows, our community becomes a less safe place in which to live.

We have heard that there are too many confusing firearms laws. However, we question the difficulty in understanding the simple concept of a background check or 10-day waiting period. It would seem reasonable to expect a person engaged in the business of selling firearms to have full knowledge of the law. Ignorance is no excuse.

We often hear the phrase, “Guns do not kill, people do,” or “It is the nut that is the problem, not the gun.” I would venture to say it is indeed the person, a person with a gun. If we had a perfect society, with perfectly behaved people, then controlling access to firearms would not be an issue. Although other items can be used as weapons, few can do as much harm, as quickly, as a gun – particularly the semi-automatic assault-style firearms that have become so popular.

In this newspaper, an attorney representing the promoter was quoted saying that the case was “blown out of proportion.” At the trial readiness conference, the promoter’s attorney told me that she could not imagine why anyone would care about this case; she was quite amused.

I informed her that her client’s alleged ignorance and blatant disregard of the law affect the safety of our entire community. Public opinion polls consistently find that a very large majority of Americans favor background checks, waiting periods, and the registration of guns. Registration provides a means for upholding the laws regarding gun possession as ownership changes, or if the eligibility of an owner changes over time.

Together, these laws are intended to keep firearms away from criminals, children, the mentally ill, and domestic violence offenders. To the extent that existing law is inadequate to achieve this goal, new laws will be required.

Unfortunately, our family and this community know the tragic consequences of a gun in the wrong hands. We cannot allow this to happen again.

Amanda Wilcox of Penn Valley is the mother of Laura Wilcox, the 19-year-old college student shot and killed on Jan. 10, 2001, at the Nevada County Behavioral Health Department offices.

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