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Owensboro Attorney Says Gun Show Not Appropriate in Times of Mass Shootings


An Owensboro attorney is asking the city commission to reconsider allowing an upcoming gun show in light of the many mass shootings across the country.

Owensboro attorney Clay Wilkey said he’s familiar with a law passed by the General Assembly in 2012 that prohibits city or county governments from passing legislation that infringes on a Kentucky citizen’s right to purchase or carry a firearm. But Wilkey said he has concerns about what’s called the “gun show loophole.”

“I thought it was perhaps in poor taste that the city would play host to a gun show where anybody that has $6 to buy an admission ticket and has a Kentucky ID can go into the Sportscenter, and walk out with a firearm, without any requirement that a background check be done,” said Wilkey.

The “gun show loophole” references how licensed gun dealers are required run a background check on a person who purchases a firearm, but an individual who doesn’t have a license can sell a firearm at a gun show without running a background check.

Wilkey also spoke to the the City Commission about the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act that prohibits guns within 1,000 feet of a school. Wilkey said Owensboro Catholic High School is within that distance of the Sportscenter, where the gun show is being held.

Owensboro City Attorney Steve Lynn said he has consulted with the federal officials about the issue.

“When I spoke with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, they told me that as a municipal government, we’re not bound by that Gun-Free School Zones Act," said Lynn.

He added that the ATF official noted exceptions to the 1,000 foot restriction. One exception covers someone who is a neighbor of the school, and whose property is separated from the school zone.

Lynn said the city property also falls under an exception to the 1,000 foot rule. Lynn said the ATF official also told him the 1,000 rule applies to individuals.

The gun show is scheduled for Sept. 21-22 at the city-owned Sportscenter, which is currently operated by Spectra, a private venue management company with clients across the nation.

Lynn said the city can't just rule out gun shows because of the 2012 state statute that prohibits local governments from imposing prohibitions on the purchase, sale or possession of firearms.

"The city will not be hosting or promoting this event," said Lynn. "We have a company that operates the Sportscenter for us and then they have contracted with a promoter that comes in about, I think, about twice a year. Let me make it clear that it's not a city hosted event."

Gun shows have been held for decades in the Sportscenter, Lynn said.

"I can recall going with my father when I was a small boy in the early 1970s" Lynn said. "So I guess it's kind of a tradition that it's held once or twice a year."

Wilkey said he plans to request an opinion on the issue from Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear. He said he understands that the city may not be able to cancel the current contract for the upcoming gun show.

But even if the upcoming event does go on as planned, he would like the city to consider not allowing gun shows in the future. Wilkey said he thinks that in the current political climate, when state and federal lawmakers often come to an impasse, it's important for individual citizens to do what they can to help end gun violence.

Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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