SANDY — Recent deadly shootings in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City have raised concerns for some critics who wonder if adjustments should be made to laws governing firearm sales in an effort to increase public safety.
For gun advocates, the problem does not require any new laws, just better enforcement of regulations that are already "on the books."
This weekend marks the final Crossroads of the West gun show of the year at South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. The two-day, quarterly event — which runs Saturday and Sunday — attracts thousands of people from around the region, including dealers, vendors and gun enthusiasts.
Gun safety advocates have argued that stricter regulations could prevent deadly incidents that occur with alarming frequency nationwide. But gun rights advocates counter by saying there are plenty of laws currently in place that if enforced appropriately should provide adequate regulation and effective control for all citizens.
However, there are exceptions that could be addressed to close some "loopholes," one gun dealer noted. For example, in Utah, retail gun dealers are required to have a federal firearm license and also must conduct background checks prior to making any commercial transactions, including at gun shows. Contrarily, Utah law allows individual citizens to buy and sell firearms without conducting any background check.
Colorado gun dealer Steve — who declined to give his last name — called having such a law a mistake.
"Utah has that law and (it) shouldn't," he said. "Everybody that buys a gun — period — should have a background check."
He called background checks "the smart thing to do." As a dealer for more than 40 years, Steve said you learn to sense when someone may be questionably trying to obtain a firearm.
"As a vendor, I think you can tell if a guy should or shouldn't have a gun — for the most part," he explained. "The way they look, the way they act and the way they talk."
He added that gun shows typically handle legal and safety issues well, but he noted that enforcement of existing laws could go a long way toward improving public safety nationwide.
"They need to enforce the laws a lot heavier than they (currently) are," he said.
The show's organizers said they do their best to make sure all laws are followed by dealers as well as visitors, but there is not much they can do if a few individuals choose to break the law outside of the event.
"If you're a criminal and have intent to commit a crime, you're going to commit crime regardless of what (method) you have access to," said Tracy Alcott, vice president of the Crossroads of the West gun show. "You can't change the minds of criminals. You can't change their intent."
She noted that each of the shows is watched by law enforcement to ensure that organizers, vendors and visitors are in compliance with the law.
"They are here to oversee and serve as a visual reminder to obey the law," she said.
Regarding private party firearms sales, she said those transactions do take place sometimes at the event in a legal manner. However, she said those parties are encouraged to make the sales through licensed dealers who can facilitate individual background checks.
Alcott noted that since Republicans have regained the White House, attendance at the shows have flattened because gun owners are less concerned about new firearm legislation potentially impacting their rights. For now, things are less imperative than in previous years.3 comments on this story
"There's less urgency," she said. In addressing the fears some people may have about gun shows and the kind of folks who frequent them, she noted that it's just like many other consumer-oriented events where good people come to enjoy their passion for their chosen hobby.
"There are people here with their kids, couples, families and sometimes it's just a group of dudes hanging out," Alcott explained. "We have booths that sell (Egyptian) sheets and (remote-controlled) helicopters — for goodness sakes. It's not just a gun show, there are lots of other things besides guns and ammunition. It really is a family event."