RENO (KPIX 5) — After two mass shootings in 24 hours left 29 people dead this past August there’s been a rush to tighten gun laws nationwide. There’s also been a rush to buy guns and ammunition before more restrictions are imposed.
In Nevada, a new background check law goes into effect in January. And in California, a new ammunition law kicked in July 1st. End result: what we saw at the Reno gun show.
A steady stream of people filed into the New Frontier gun show in at the convention center in Reno one recent weekend. The show’s producers wouldn’t let our cameras in, and didn’t want to talk to us.
But Steve Lindley with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was happy to come along for the ride.
We started outside, where the parking lot was full of cars with California plates. Lindley told us that at past gun shows, private sellers could often be seen dealing guns from the trunk of their car. No background check, no questions asked.
Until Nevada’s new background check law goes into effect next year that’s still legal, as long as the gun stays in Nevada. But Lindley says the guns often end up in California.
On this day we saw no obvious transactions in the parking lot. And we noticed shoppers in general seemed discreet, many sporting guitar cases to conceal the firearms they were buying or selling.
A heavy law enforcement presence may have contributed to the low-key atmosphere. Lindley, recently retired from the California Department of Justice, admitted he had given his former co-workers a heads-up.
“That’s good you know. I think law enforcement is identifying that there might be California residents coming to Nevada,” said Lindley. “Although they were in undercover cars, they were making sure they were noticed by the people walking through the parking lots. And that deterrence had an effect.”
He said inside the venue, the private parties selling guns were being cautious as well. “They all identified that they would need to see a Nevada’s driver license,” said Lindley. But for ammunition no one asked us questions. “There was a lot of ammo being sold. And it was being packaged for bulk sales,” said Lindley.
We met up with a man named Kirk on his way in to buy some. “They don’t need to ask me anything. What kind do I want? And how much?” said Kirk. He’s from California but told us he also lives in Nevada, and prefers to buy here, so he doesn’t have to bother with California’s new ammo law that requires a background check to buy bullets. “It sucks and I’m going to move,” said Kirk.
But on universal background checks, he disagreed with the leadership of the National Rifle Association. “Nobody is in a hurry to buy a gun, so yeah, I don’t care about a background check. Some people have to have it, they shouldn’t have a gun,” said Kirk.
Ken Blomsterberg, another gun owner we ran into, agreed. “We’re trying to keep the guns out of the people that shouldn’t have them, and if it requires background checks to keep it that way I am all for it, all the public would be for it, you would have to be a nut not to,” said Blomsterberg.
Maybe that’s why we sensed a change at this gun show. After all the lives lost in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, a more conscious effort to play it safe.
While we were here in Reno we learned of an arrest that happened on the California side of the border. Apparently, law enforcement saw what they thought was a shady deal at the gun show. They followed that driver and pulled him over once they crossed the California state line.