Mark Leno touts bill to end Cow Palace gun shows

The San Mateo and San Francisco boards of supervisors would have to pass resolutions supporting a gun show at the Cow Palace before any such events could be held there in the future, under a bill by state Sen. Mark Leno.

Those boards in the past have unanimously adopted resolutions urging the Legislature to end gun shows at the Cow Palace, an indoor arena on the Daly City-San Francisco border that’s owned and operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions.

So, Leno’s SB 475 would almost surely be the death knell for gun shows at what may be their most popular Northern California venue.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show attracted thousands of people to the Cow Palace in January, less than a month after the shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school brought calls for new gun-control laws – calls which fueled a firearms feeding frenzy. People lined up hours in advance to get in.

That same Utah-based gun-show operator is scheduled to return to the Cow Palace for shows on April 13-14, June 29-30, Sept. 14-15 and Nov. 2-3.

Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill Feb. 21 but held a news conference with local officials Friday outside the Cow Palace.

“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,” Leno said in a news release. “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.”

Leno noted the Cow Palace lies directly across from the Sunnydale public housing project and close to Visitacion Valley, Bayview-Hunters Point and the Mission District – a where many of San Francisco’s homicides and gun seizures occur.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen said gun violence has devastating impact on the community. “We have been working for years on the local level to do everything possible to limit unlicensed access to firearms and ammunition in an effort to address this violence. This proposed legislation will give San Francisco residents a needed voice in deciding the activities that go on in our own backyard.”

Leno authored two previous bills that would have banned gun shows at Cow Palace. The most recent bill, SB 585, was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.

The state Senate yesterday voted 31-0 to pass Leno’s SB 140, which would let the state Justice Department use surplus money from firearm background check fees to beef up the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) program, which identifies and confiscates handguns and assault weapons from those no longer legally allowed to own them due to criminal convictions, mental illness or protective orders. Justice Department officials told the state Senate in January that they had a backlog of almost 20,000 names APPS had identified as no longer eligible to own firearms, without enough time, money and manpower to pursue those leads.

Hector Barajas, communications director for the California Senate Republican Caucus, sent an e-mail this morning questioning whether Leno is being “a bit hypocritical.”

“Yesterday Leno wanted to use money from individuals that legally purchase firearms to confiscate guns from people prohibited from owning them – using the money from the background checks to hire law enforcement personnel,” Barajas wrote. “And the very next day, Leno wants to prevent the legal sale of guns at the Cow Palace – if he does reduce the sale of guns or makes it more difficult, where is the state going to pay for the newly hired personnel?”

As a practical matter, it’s probably not a concern – California’s Dealer Record of Sale fee for background checks has been running a substantial surplus for years, so nixing gun shows at one venue almost surely won’t affect available funding. As a matter of principle – what do you think, readers?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    That Jay Leno is such a scream!