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Mediation Ordered In Alameda County Fairgrounds Gun Show Dispute

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PLEASANTON (CBS SF) — A federal appeals court in San Francisco Wednesday ordered mediation on a long-running battle over whether gun shows can be held at the Alameda County fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the order in a lawsuit in which gun show promoters Russell and Sally Nordyke claim a 1999 Alameda County law that restricts gun possession on county property effectively prevents them from holding shows at the fairgrounds.

Nine of 11 judges on the panel signed onto the order stating, “The panel believes that the parties should attempt to settle this dispute by agreeing on the conditions for holding gun shows at the Alameda County fairgrounds, with the assistance of mediation.”

Chief Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Ronald Gould dissented, saying they believe mediation would not be fruitful and stating, “This delay serves no purpose.”

The 1999 law generally prohibits bringing guns to or possessing them on county property, but makes an exception for firearms handled by an “authorized participant” in an event, so long as the gun is “secured to prevent unauthorized use” when not in the participant’s possession.

The Nordykes’ lawsuit, filed in 1999, claims the measure violates the constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms by preventing them from holding shows at the fairgrounds.

But at a hearing before the 11-judge panel last month, a lawyer for the county told the court gun shows could comply with the law if the unloaded firearms brought to the site by authorized gun show operators were secured to a solid base with cables several feet long.

Under questioning from the judges, Donald Kilmer, a lawyer for the Nordykes, conceded, “I imagine it would be possible to have a gun show that way.”

Lawyers from both sides said Wednesday their clients will participate in the mediation.

Kilmer said, “We’ll participate in good faith. We definitely have some issues we want to put on the table. We’re looking forward to working with the county and the mediator.”

Peter Pierce, a lawyer for Alameda County, said, “The county is willing to participate.”

Under court rules, a circuit mediator will be randomly assigned to the case from court’s staff of mediators.

The panel instructed the mediator to submit a status report within 45 days.

In addition to the county proposal that guns in fairgrounds shows could be tethered, state law requires that weapons displayed at shows must be unloaded and made nonfunctional with plastic or nylon straps.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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