City of Tacoma mulls tighter gun show regulations

TACOMA, Wash. -- The first gun show in 23 years at the Tacoma Dome is setting the stage for a skirmish on the issue of background checks on private gun sales.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has publicly expressed a desire to consider requiring background checks on private firearms sales on city property.

The organizer of this weekend's event at the Tacoma Dome, Wes Knodel, says he is not necessarily opposed to universal background checks.

"If it's made law then we will follow the law. That's the number one thing we do here," said Knodel, who does require some record keeping for all sales at the show.

Private sellers and dealers must verify that every buyer is of legal age to buy a gun and are Washington residents. All sellers must also record the firearm's serial number and price, and give the buyer a receipt. Buyers must also sign a statement declaring he or she is legally allowed to own a gun.

Knodel has been organizing gun shows for 20 years and understands the public debate over background checks.

"You talk about gun rights, you talk about what we should or shouldn't have, you get into a firestorm of controversy," he said. "Everybody's very passionate on how they feel about it."

Most of the exhibitors at this weekend's gun show are licensed firearms dealers who by law must conduct background checks on all buyers.

Some gun owners believe that requirement should extend to private sellers.

"Oh, I think they absolutely should have to do it," said Darren Capps, who attended the show with his son and son-in-law."That's how criminals get guns. And it's too easy to walk into these events and do that. It's just not right."

But most attendees you talk to are opposed to any new gun control regulation. Especially regarding private sales.

"If I have a pair of shoes. Or a handgun. Or a pen. That means I have the right to sell it," insists John Hansen, a private vendor who has sold guns in the past.

Hansen believes requiring universal background checks on gun shows will not deter criminals, because these events are not where criminals look for weapons.

"The easiest opportunity for a criminal is not to come into the gun show where everybody is looking at him, recognizing him maybe if he makes a purchase," Hansen said. "They're going to break into your house if they think you've got one. And they're gonna take it. If they think you've got one in your car, they're gonna break into your car and get it. That's the easiest opportunity. Not a gun show."

Gun show organizer Knodel says he's planning more gun shows in the Tacoma Dome, but isn't sure how potential new regulations will affect those plans.

While the City of Tacoma ponders it's next move, voters will eventually have a say.

Initiative 594 will be on the November ballot. It would require background checks for all private gun sales.
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