I have lived most of my 73-plus years on the East Coast, but whenever I go out to the West Coast, as a confirmed gun nut I try to schedule my trips when a Crossroads of the West gun show is being held in the city where I’m going to be. I can’t purchase a gun at these shows unless I’m willing to wait 10 days for the dealer to ship the piece back to a dealer back home, and my rule of thumb is that if I see a gun I really like, I want to walk out with it right then and there.
Notwithstanding this serious limitation, I like the Crossroads shows because there are lots of guns, lots of good food concessions and the atmosphere is enjoyable, homey and nice. If I have to choose between the stuffy, pretentious San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where if you speak above a whisper someone immediately tells you to shut-up, versus going up and down the aisles at the Cow Palace looking at endless piles of guns and sharing a joke with another gun nut or an ATF agent, it’s no contest at all.
But the world, even the gun world, does change, and right now it appears that the Crossroads of the West gun show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace may be going the way of the Passenger Pigeon, the Dodo Bird and the dial phone. The next show is scheduled for June and it will go on as planned, but if several state legislators have their way, these events will come to an end in 2019. A bill has just been introduced that would end gun shows at the Gun Palace in 2020, and while the last such effort was vetoed by Jerry Brown in 2013, I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on these shows continuing given the new, post-Parkland attitude about guns.
When the Governor Abbott of Texas – Texas – announces that he will convene a roundtable on gun violence that will include school officials, victims and relatives of victims, gun rights and gun control advocates; when he says, and I quote, “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” there’s something new and different going on. And it turns out that California now has their own version of Parkland’s Emma Gonzalez in the form of Erica Mendoza, a 16-year old who led the Parkland walkout at Jefferson High School, a building which just happens to be located 2 miles from where the Cow Palace gun show takes place.
If the proposed gun show ban becomes law, the biggest, single loser will be a nice guy named Bob Templeton, who started Crossroads in 1975, and now operates more than 50 shows each year in all the Western states. Bob just published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, his basic argument being “the closure of the show will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns from the sources where they have always obtained them.” And just so you don’t think that Bob is some kind of red-neck entrepreneur with blood on his hands, his column approvingly quotes none other than the sainted, gun researcher Garen Wintemute, whose criteria for how a gun show should be operated is not only met but exceeded by procedures followed at all Crossroads shows.
It should be admitted that Templeton’s article does indulge in a bit of both historic and analytical whimsy because his statement that there have been “no known incidents of gun violence resulting from activities at the show” is kind of true but only in a very narrow sense. In fact, a show visitor accidentally shot his friend at a 2015 Crossroads show in Phoenix, and there is simply no way to determine how many guns purchased at any Crossroads event eventually wind up in the wrong hands.
If California passes a law banning gun shows, I guarantee you it will spread. After all, let’s not forget that what has ruined gazillions of cups of coffee – half & half – also started in the Golden State.