Tyler Gun Show could see changes depending on new restrictions

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Lone Star Gun Show returns to Tyler's Harvey Convention Center this weekend and chances are it will not be business as usual.

With the hysteria over what is certain to be coming gun restrictions, attendance should exceed the typical 3,000 or so that usually attend. Show promoter James Sneed said that has been the case at recent shows in Fort Worth, Longview and Conroe.

Foot traffic has certainly been up at gun stores where business has skyrocketed starting the day after the November presidential election and climbing to a new high following the mid-December school shooting in Connecticut.

In the one-sided political debate that has occurred the last two weeks, gun shows have been ostracized almost with the same zeal as the black guns, wrongfully described over and over as assault weapons to those making decisions for us and wanting to put fear into the minds of non-gun owners.

The gun shows, some would have you believe, are the epicenter of gun sales to criminals and those destined to commit mass murder.

It is an opinion that doesn't seem to be true, at least when talking about the Tyler show. According to Sneed, the Tyler show will have more than 300 vendors this weekend. While some don't sell guns, more than 90 percent of the firearm sales will be through vendors with a Federal Firearms License who are required to do a background check on buyers.

It is true that not all sales at gun shows are done by the vendors, and thus the background check isn't necessary. Most gun shows are typically buy, sell or trade events where the public may also bring guns they want to swap or sell, but for the guns being sold between individuals apparently aren't destined for crime either.

"Most of the guns we see come through there are handguns and hunting rifles like bolt action rifles," Sneed said, adding that private party sales are a small percentage of the activity.

A semi-regular gun show vendor and former law enforcement official agrees with Sneed that there is more hype than substance to the concerns. Although he wouldn't talk on the record, he did say the gun shows he has worked aren't the Wild West or filled with a rogue's gallery of criminals.

Tyler Police said this week they also don't have a problem with the local show because no gun from a crime has been tracked back to the show, and because they realize most vendors hold an FFL and do the background check. They also know private sales will continue with or without a public venue.

Sneed admits he is contacted occasionally by the FBI concerning a gun traced back to one of his shows, but it is as rare of an occasion as calls on guns from his retail store.

Still, Washington is looking at making all sales at a gun show dependent on a background check. If that happens Sneed also suspects private party sales will continue, but just not at the shows.

The knee-jerk reaction also has some counties and cities even in Texas considering banning them on government property. Travis County thought about it for a minute, but backed away when lawyers told them they probably couldn't stop them. Fort Worth is also looking at banning them, something that would impact Sneed's show there.

Here is the bigger problem than gun sales to criminals at a gun show — it has been reported in the last week that people falsifying the background checks to buy guns aren't being prosecuted. In 2009, the federal government prosecuted just 77 out of 71,000 incidents.

And the solution is more restrictions on innocent people?

How about act on the laws already on the books, and tighten the loopholes such as better state-to-state reporting of people treated for mental illness so they too can be prevented from buy guns to injure themselves or others.

Because it is easier to pass feel-good laws that make a big splash for politicians but don't do anything but put more restrictions on innocent people.

The Lone Star Gun Show will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7. Children under 12 are admitted free with an adult.

Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at outdoor@tylerpaper.com. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.


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