Gun Shows

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Over the course of my law enforcement career, depending on my assignment or

off-duty status, weapons I carried varied in size and power.  As a reserve police officer for the Hayward Police Department (CA) we were required to purchase our own firearm.  My first purchase was a Smith & Wesson Model 66 revolver.

30-plus years later, this handgun remains my favorite to target shoot.  Both of my sons, when they were young, learned to shot with this gun.  My sons were also taught gun safety, the use of speed loaders, and the proper cleaning and storage of weapons.

For the majority of my life, I have resided in the state of California.  What is being argued today throughout our country, has been standard operating procedure in California for years in regards to firearms.  As a reserve officer, I was still considered a civilian, thus subjected to the laws of the State.

I have always purchased my handguns from a known brick and mortar firearms dealerships.  Once I selected a gun, the dealer filled out the paperwork, ran a short background check to see if I was in compliance with my agency.  Once completed, I paid for the weapon, then waited 10 working days while the State did a complete through background search.

As a reserve officer, I was restricted to carry an exposed firearm only, in full uniform.  I had police powers when on-duty.  When I became a deputy sheriff for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, my responsibilities changed drastically.  I received privileges that far exceeded civilians, with that, expectations of my actions increased equally.

The Sheriff issued his/her deputies various weapons, which were worn on our duty belts.  These weapons were incorporated into the Department’s guide concerning the use of force, which ranged from verbal commands, chemical sprays, small and long batons, to the use of deadly force.  Every time, every range, every deputy were read the Department’s authorization concerning the use of deadly force.

One of the privileges sworn peace officers have is to be armed, if they wish, off-duty.  Off-duty handguns are to be concealed from the public view.  As an active deputy, we were restricted to carrying an off-duty handgun no smaller than a 380 caliber, sometime referred to as a 9mm short.  The concealment of a firearm is fairly easy during cold or cooler weather.

However, during warm or hot weather, concealing a firearm proves to be challenging.  Now retired, I am still required to shoot at the departmental range.  A score of 70% gives that deputy the right to carry a concealed weapon only.  For those deputies that score 90%, they have the opportunity to qualify with a second handgun.

If a second score, exceeding 90% is obtained, the retired deputy is allowed to carry a second concealed handgun.  Upon qualification we are issued a pictured Departmental ID which lists the handguns we are legally able to carry.  A Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) is a privilege which can be revoked by the Sheriff, virtually at his/her discretion.

To my knowledge, Peace Officers (Police, Sheriff, Highway Patrol, Federal Officers, etc) and Security Officers are the only people allowed to care an exposed weapon.  The State of California, which allowed civilians to carry exposed, unloaded handguns in public, has rescinded that right.

Another privilege sworn officers had, was the ability to purchase a firearm, show your departmental ID and California driver’s license, then leave with the weapon if in compliance with your agency.  This change when a bill by California Senator Diane Fienstein (D), following an assault weapon attack on a grade school in Stocktown, California.  This bill banned the purchase of assault weapons by civilians.

Somehow, this right peace officers and retired officers had to purchase and leave with the weapon got thrown into the mix.  After the passage of Fienstein’s bill, peace officers needed an authorization letter from our department head, in my case, the Sheriff.  Our agency has over 1,000 sworn personnel on active duty and virtually the same number or more of retired deputies rendering “A note from our mother” difficult to obtain.

The above verbiage, perhaps somewhat rambling, was written to illustrate what is required of a peace officer in the State of California to purchase a firearm.  The title of this article “Gun Shows” relies on information I have heard through congressional hearings, political pundits, newspaper and magazine articles.  Although there may be slight variations in the exact numbers in various articles, the main focus seems to be the “Real deal.”

Unbeknownst to me, gun shows are very prominent throughout our land.  I vaguely remember seeing signs, from time to time, for various gun shows, usually held at County Fairgrounds, posted along freeways (Highways).  Apparently they are quite popular and profitable for both the sellers and the fairgrounds.

Relying solely on the media, 40% of firearms sold in this country are purchased at gun shows.  A figure I really did not think much about, until it was revealed that gun shows were exempt to background checks.  Again, I am not sure if California requires background checks at gun shows, but if this State does, do the States bordering us require the same?

Our largest border is shared with the Pacific Ocean.  To the north, Oregon, east Nevada and Arizona, south, the country of Mexico.  Of those States that share our populated borders, if their laws are less stringent, it would seem fairly easy to purchase firearms in those States, then simply bring them into California.

This quagmire is at the heart of the fight over gun rights.  I, as the majority of Americans support gun registration and background checks.  According to published reports, many members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) support these actions too.  Although there is a core faction, led by Wayne LaPierre, a spokesperson for the NRA that decries any reasonable effort to lessen another Sandy Hook massacre from happening again to be unconstitutional, an attack against their 2nd Amendment rights.

Hard-core gun enthusiasts, devotees, disciples, perhaps better termed fanatics of the NRA see nothing wrong with our current state of gun violence that more guns in the public’s hands would not thwart.  Gun shows provide the easiest avenue for the NRA to reach that goal.  Gun show operators, in many States, are not required, or if required, do not follow through as they should regarding background checks.

With individual States passing laws governing the sale of firearms, especially gun shows, have little chance of succeeding without a Federal format.  Today it is reported that 11 States passed stricter gun laws, but six States lessened existing gun laws, thus allowing easier access to firearms.  I believe the 11 States to be Blue, the six Red.

What should be simple, what the majority of Americans want, has now become a political issue.  As a gun owner, who has gone through a non-painful background check a number of times, I find the NRA and their followers rants to be without merit.  Knowing who has firearms should be a given, background checks are a reasonable way to start protecting our citizens against violent crime.

We are not a tyrannical culture, no one is going to invade your home and take your guns.  Being registered, being legal is not a threat.  However, purchasing firearms at a gun show with no background check opens the door to criminals, the mentally unstable, and terrorists.

In my lifetime, I have seen President John F. Kennedy, his brother Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X assassinated, President Gerald R. Ford shot at, President Ronald Reagan wounded, plus numerous world leaders killed.  If someone has the desire, the means, and the ability to harm us, chances are they can be successful.  Access to firearms, especially assault weapons and large capacity magazines bolsters their success.

If mandatory background checks and firearm registration save just one life, would it not be worth it.  90 seconds is all that is required for a basic background check.  Seems like a no brainier!

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