SANDY — The owner of the largest gun show promoter in the country said he wouldn't support tougher background checks at his exhibitions.
Bob Templeton, owner and CEO of Kaysville-based Crossroads of the West, was preparing Friday for this weekend's showcase at the South Towne Exposition Center.
Templeton said his Jan. 10 visit with Vice President Joe Biden did little to change his stance on gun control. Biden had invited him to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues surrounding gun violence in the U.S.
“It was a cordial meeting,” Templeton said. “Vice President Biden is an engaging guy. But generally there was no agreement on how to move forward.”
Templeton said he blames the bulk of gun violence on the lack of enforcement of existing laws and a failed mental health system rather than illicit purchases at shows such as Crossroads of the West.
He pointed out that more than 72,000 Americans failed background checks in 2010, but only 44 were prosecuted for providing false information.
“The vice president told me, ‘We don't have the resources or personnel to prosecute everyone who lies on a background check form,'” Templeton said. “(I asked), 'How then can we be expected to support new legislation that adds to that burden?' His response was, ‘Well, we'll address that when we get to it. Next question.'”
Templeton, who is also the founder and president of the National Association of Arms Shows, said tightening the grip on gun show sales would only impact law-abiding gun owners. He said his customers and business partners are being demonized, that existing laws are sufficient to solve the problem, and that American gun violence has more to do with mental health than firearms.
“There are over 100 million responsible gun owners in America. We are the scapegoats for the violent acts of one unstable man who committed unspeakable tragedies,” he said, referring to the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank also recently visited the White House, joining other police chiefs from throughout the country to discuss gun control with President Barack Obama.
Burbank said he doesn't believe instituting more stringent background checks and banning specific weapons violates the Constitution.
“There are limitations to constitutional rights,” he said. “We need to … realize that the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee you access to any firearm you want and the ability to carry it anywhere you want. Reasonableness says we're going to limit access.”
The issue is divisive even among vendors at Templeton's gun show.
Russ Garrison regularly sells first-aid equipment at gun shows, including Crossroads of the West, and said most of his customers are avid gun owners. However, he supports a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“I could see a ban happening and I don't have any problem with that,” Garrison said. “I'm an (Automatic Rifle) owner and I use 30 round magazines, but I could have enough fun with 10 rounds.”
But Garrison is less optimistic that closing the so-called gun show loophole will reduce violent crime. He said too many gun-control advocates are trying to paint America's gun-owning population as violence-loving and paranoid.
“Nobody likes to be labeled. There are so many good people involved with guns who are big into hunting and camping and fishing,” Garrison said. “And I'm going to support them. I'm still a believer it's not the gun that kills the person; it's the person who kills the person.”