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Gun Show Returns to Cow Palace, Despite Complaints

The Cow Palace in Daly City
The Cow Palace in Daly City
Locals worry about loose firearm sales in a dangerous neighborhood

Thousands of firearms enthusiasts will descend on the Cow Palace this weekend for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show, despite ongoing attempts by the community to shut it down.

“There are a lot of people in that neighborhood who’re getting bumped,” said Rudy Corpuz, an ex-felon who founded the gang prevention group United Playaz, noting the Cow Palace is just a few blocks away from the Sunnydale public housing project, one of the most dangerous places in San Francisco.

“The guns that are sold there have a way of ending up in the community,” he added.

In recent years, the San Francisco and San Mateo boards of supervisors have both passed resolutions demanding that the Crossroads Gun Show stay away from the area.

But the Cow Palace, which lies just south of the San Mateo county line in Daly City, need not abide by the edicts of local governments of either county.

It is owned by the California Department of Agriculture, and is therefore governed by state law.

And last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would have forbidden the gun show from coming to the venue. 

“This bill would set a confusing precedent at the state level by statutorily prohibiting one District Agricultural Association (DAA) from selling firearms and ammunition, a legal and regulated activity,” Schwarzenegger said in his veto message.

“In addition, this bill would result in decreased state and local tax revenues by restricting events at the Cow Palace,” he added. 

Leno called Schwarzenegger’s reasoning “a cop out.”

“The message [of] a flashing sign saying ‘Guns! Guns! Guns!’ in one of the most gun-violent neighborhoods in either county only encourages violence,” Leno said, referring to the marquis on the Cow Palace at past gun shows. He said he wasn’t sure whether he would introduce similar legislation next year when Democrat Jerry Brown is governor.

As attorney general, Brown angered gun control advocates by siding with the National Rifle Association, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Chicago’s handgun ban.

“Right now we’re evaluating which legislation from the last session we’re going to revisit in the next session,” Leno said. 

Jerry Riggleman, a San Diego-based spokesman for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show, said that “there is a sensitivity” to community concerns, “and there is an interest in being a very good community partner.”

“There was a lot of concern about the marquee being overly effusive about the show,” he said, and this time it will be toned down. 

“The Crossroads folks are certainly concerned about being part of the solution and not being part of the problem,” he added, “and they held out the olive branch to try to make sure that things that have become part of the public concern have been addressed.”

Riggleman said the gun show has no relationship to crime.

“It’s a whole variety of information, hardware, ammunition, supplies, knives and reloading equipment,” he said, “a whole array of things for the person who has that sportsman lifestyle.” 

The merchandise will be sold by hundreds of independent contractors, he said, some of whom live in Northern California, others who travel from gun show to gun show to make a living.

Anti-violence advocates say that nationally, gun shows represent a common way for firearms to fall into the hands of criminals. 

Under federal law, retailers who sell guns are required to hold a firearms license and perform background checks through a system maintained by the FBI prior to transferring a firearm to a new owner. But that requirement does not apply to exhibitors at gun shows.

In California, the “gun show loophole,” as it’s called, was closed a decade ago with legislation that Andres Soto helped write as an advocate with the Violence Prevention Institute. But Soto said the law is rarely enforced.

“There’s not a requirement for any law enforcement oversight, so there’s nobody watching the action,” he said.

Even worse, he said, ammunition sales at gun shows are completely unregulated.

“If you go there, you will see people who just sell high volumes of ammunition and you’ll see people walking out the door with boxes of it,” he said.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show will take place at the Cow Palace this Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 a.m. More information is available here.

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