Gun Shows Need to be Proactive to Survive

By Publius

Mayor Bloomberg's "investigation" of gun shows in Ohio presents an opportunity for gun owners in the Buckeye state - an opportunity that we must seize if gun shows are to survive.

The choice facing us is simple: Change how gun shows operate, or gun shows will be legislated/litigated out of business. The loss of gun shows would be a devastating blow to the First Amendment rights of gun owners. Yes, I said First Amendment.

Let's get something out of the way upfront so we can concentrate on our issues: Mayor Bloomberg is exceeding his authority, is wrong, has no business doing investigations in Ohio, his investigators are breaking the law, he released heavily edited versions of his tapes, all the conduct he complains of is already illegal and prohibited etc etc etc.

None of that matters. Now, can we concentrate on our own problems and administer some tough love?

Gun shows are currently facing legislation in the Congress. The House version of this legislation would end gun shows. There is no other way to read it. The restrictions and regulations placed on gun shows in that bill have nothing to do about "closing loopholes" and everything to do about making it impossible to operate gun shows. The Senate version is slightly better - but only slightly.

If Congressional legislation fails, then litigation will be the channel used to shut down gun shows. In 2006, when Bloomberg pulled his stunts with gun dealers and then sued them, every single dealer either 1.) went out of business, or 2.) agreed to submit to the control and oversight of Bloomberg to continue in operation. Why this result? Because the dealers cannot afford to fight through a multi-year civil suit, regardless of the ultimate merit or chance for success. However, Bloomberg was very careful in his press conference to say he has no interest in suing the dealers shown in the tapes.

And why would he? Far easier to sue the gun show promoters and venues renting to the gun show promoters. Sue maybe six promoters and maybe 6 venues, and gun shows are forever finished in Ohio. I am 100% certain that places like Hara, Vets and Westland are not going to go to court to fight for their ability to rent space to gun shows. Day 1, they get served with the nuisance suit, Day 2 they pick up the phone and call to ask, "If we agree not to rent space to gun shows, will you dismiss your suit?" If there is nowhere to host the shows, we're done. I am also 100% certain that the gun show promoters are not going to weather a civil lawsuit and/or criminal conspiracy/RICO cases and survive. New promoters might pop up to fill the void, but they are going to have to either adopt new, tougher standards, or just wait for the sting to hit their new shows.

So gun shows are facing extinction. We need to accept that as gun owners. There is a critical threat to gun shows that won't go away. We can either address the issues or await the coup de grace. For me, I don't think gun owners can afford to stand by and watch gun shows be shut down. In my mind, gun shows are only partially about buying/selling guns. Perhaps the most important part of gun shows is our right to meet and associate, to share information about campaigns, candidates, proposed legislation, to recruit volunteers and sign up members. Gun shows are as much, or more, about the First Amendment as the Second.

Even the antis know this. The statistics are overwhelming: crime guns don't come from gun shows. So why are they targeting gun shows for shut down if it isn't about crime? It drives them insane that the NRA signs up hundreds of members each gun show, that pro-gun candidates get to spend several hours in a cost-free campaign communication exercise, meeting gun owners in person, signing up volunteers and receiving donations in a "target rich environment." It is far too easy for groups like Buckeye Firearms Association to hand out literature attacking their favorite, anti-gun candidates for the mere cost of photocopies. Because clearly gun shows are pro-gun organizations' highest volume, lowest cost channel with which to do their work.

Antis don't have this. Candle light vigils just don't compare. Early in the antis' game plans they secured innumerable grants from liberals like Soros and Joyce, figuring they would out-spend, out-organize and out-communicate gun owners with professional, paid staffs and large budgets. Yet pro-gun organizations out-work them and out-smart them with volunteers using nearly-free methods and channels. It drives them insane, so they pass laws to try and exterminate talk radio (including NRA News) and try to shut down our gathering places.

THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. Unless gun owners support gun show promoters in making proactive changes, we are going to lose this critical venue.

"Publius" is a time-honored pseudonym used most famously in the Federalist Papers. The use of the pen-name allows readers to consider the message without becoming distracted by any bias for or against the author, and also allows the author to communicate things that might harm the author personally or professionally.

Publishing frank discussions (not personal attacks) that deserve examination while maintaining anonymity to protect the livelihood of the author is a proud tradition, and Publius is welcome at

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