Don’t take your guns to San Fran town

July 8, 2013

By Katy Grimes


Touting “community values” and the need to reduce crime, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, wants the Crossroads of the West gun show tossed out of the Cow Palace in South San Francisco.

But a closer look at the issues suggests that Leno’s “values” might not reflect the larger community and shows little substance to the claim that crime is linked to the gun show. Instead, the real goal appears to be to give Leno and other San Francisco Democrats a chance to demonstrate their hatred for gun rights by running one of the last remaining legal gun venues out of town.

Leno’s SB 475 would ban the gun show. If the measure passed and Gov. Jerry Brown were willing to sign it, the Legislature would be able to intervene because the Cow Palace is owned by the state and managed by the Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions.

Such a ban would be against the state’s financial interests. According to the Department of Finance, the Crossroads of the West gun show brings in $150,000 to $180,000 in rent every year for the Cow Palace, in addition to the state and local tax revenue the event generates.

Leno’s claims undercut — and mocked — in testimony

On Wednesday, SB 475 was heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in an often-testy hearing. Leno once again declared that the community surrounding the Cow Palace in South San Francisco does not want the gun shows. Here is the succinct version of his argument from his website:

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored. Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. We must give local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

The Cow Palace is located in Bayview-Hunters Point, which has been overrun with gangs and drugs since the 1970s, and has a high rate of murder, violent crime and poverty. Though it has only a small fraction of San Francisco’s entire population, the area has 40 percent of San Francisco’s homicides, according to Leno.

Yet as testimony showed, the high murder rate has never been tied to gun sales at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show. In fact, there have been no reported incidents involving gun violence at the gun show.

And the idea that the Cow Palace’s booking decisions should reflect “community values” triggered joking and barbs at the hearing, given that Leno is mum about the annual Erotic Exotic Ball and the Cannabis Festival, also held annually at the venue.

Ban would create huge headaches for gun owners

logoJohn Lovell, representing the California Police Chiefs Association, said banning the Crossroads of the West gun show from the Cow Palace would send anyone wanting to buy or sell a gun to “Nevada,” since there’s nowhere else in San Francisco left to make a gun transfer.

Lovell said California has the strictest and safest gun-show laws in the country. “The Cow Palace gun show has as much to do with gun violence as the Exotic Erotic Ball has to do with marriage infidelity,” Lovell said.

“You want to limit choices to consumers,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, to Leno. Donnelly pointed out people pay to get into the gun show at the Cow Palace and wait in line for two hours.

“Obviously there is a demand for this,” Donnelly said. “No one is holding a gun to their heads to go to the gun show.”

“You want it in your front yard? I’ll support that,” Leno retorted. “The community doesn’t want it. I represent the values of the neighborhood.”

“How do you know the community doesn’t want it, with a two-hour line?” Donnelly asked.

Leno said the parents of a nearby middle school signed a petition.

“The police chiefs pointed out the Erotic Exotic Ball,” Donnelly said, noting the irony of Leno worrying about the interests of a nearby school only when guns were involved.

“Neighbors care so much about this,” Leno added. “They just don’t want it in their front yard.”

But Leno never made a connection between the gun show and violent crime in the area.

An ongoing crusade by anti-gun San Francisco pols

Leno’s crusade is nothing new. For a decade, Leno has wanted to boot the gun show out of the Cow Palace, including twice before offering bills to that end that failed to win passage. The measures were identical to legislation by former state Sen. Jackie Speier, a Democratic lawmaker from Hillsborough. Speier’s bill was introduced in 2004 but failed to get through the Assembly.

Speier, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-District Attorney Kamala Harris were all supportive of banning the gun show from the Cow Palace. “Gun shows at the Cow Palace threaten our most vulnerable residents,” Newsom said in 2007, Inside Bay Area reported.

If that were the case, then there would have been crime victims coming forward to back Leno’s legislation and testifying at the hearing. There were not.

Leno’s anti-gun show rhetoric may be in keeping with his anti-gun ideology, but it isn’t backed up by reality.

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