Article on the last Cow Palace Gun Show

So sad! End of an era. Although I only tabled there a few times I always had a good time. I still miss the beef jerky.


Crossroads of the West: inside the last gun show in San Francisco

The Cow Palace arena has announced it would discontinue the event on the property beginning 1 January 2020

Paul Stamp has been selling “country foods” – beef jerky, dried fruit, roasted nuts – alongside gun holsters and firearm ammunition for about 30 years. As a longtime vendor at the San Francisco Bay Area’s Crossroads of the West gun show he’s come to see similar faces, and even considers some of his customers to be family. However, last week’s gun show will likely be the last time Stamp sees this particular clientele.

In April of this year, the board of directors for the Cow Palace arena, the longtime venue of the gun show in Daly City, announced it would discontinue gun shows at the property. In their monthly meeting, the nine-person body voted to uphold the prohibition which will take effect on 1 January 2020.

Inside the last Cow Palace gun show on the 16 November weekend, attendees walked around in newly-purchased bulletproof vests, peered through rifle scopes, and chewed on samples of Stamp’s beef jerky. The crowd primarily consisted of middle-aged and older white men, many of whom were sporting T-shirts signifying their reverence for the United States military and the police. Since California laws disallow anyone from leaving the show with a fully functional firearm, most people left without an actual gun. Instead people purchased gun parts, hunting equipment and self-defense items.

The lack of functional firearms was a departure from the firearm-heavy gun show that 20-year-old Ricardo Moreira is used to. He lived in Arizona for five years and says that this was his first time at the Cow Palace gun show, which he describes as “smaller, and more toned down”.

“There’s not much to see,” said Moreira, who brought four of his friends. “For a gun show you’d think there would be a lot of guns. Here there are more attachments, backpacks, and knives. There were some guns, but they were old ones.”

Upon learning that that weekend’s gun show may be their first and last, Moreira’s posse seemed mostly unfazed. Unlike Moreira, who says he has been shooting for sport since he was a teen, his friend said they weren’t interested in carrying guns, and Saturday’s show was merely a fun group outing.

“It’s kind of sad that it’s not out here anymore, but it’s San Francisco,” said 19-year-old Taylor Benson who purchased a stun gun and knife from one of the vendors.

For Paul Stamps, the ban mostly amounts to political fodder – he maintains that his customers and other gun show attendees are responsible sportsmen and women, not public safety hazards.

“There has not been one incident at these gun shows,” Stamps says. “These guys obey the laws. They’re hunters and sportsmen, not the wild-eyed people that you see on TV.”

“I know why people are tense but I think officials are making political hay out of it,” he added. “People make a career out of opposing gun shows. People on the other side make a political career defending gun shows, it’s just politics.”

Officials hope that bans on gun shows can make it more difficult for people to get guns, and lead to a decrease in gun violence. In the past month, five shootings in California have become national news including a school shooting in Santa Clarita and a mass shooting at a Halloween party in Orinda, a small city just outside Oakland.

In October, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that enacts a ban similar to that at the Cow Palace for the Del Mar fairgrounds in San Diego county. And some are hoping to continue to expand these policies to more of California’s state-run venues.

“For me this is a taxpayer’s rights issue,” Dave Min, a state senate hopeful, told the Guardian this week. “These family-friendly venues are funded and owned by the taxpayer. I have a philosophical problem with my tax dollars being used to make it easier to have guns in our society.”

Min is currently a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and after back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas he announced an initiative to ban gun shows at the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, California. Min acknowledged that this ban won’t completely end gun violence, but believes it’s a necessary public policy that can keep firearms away from potentially dangerous people.

“We have to start one step at a time. This is a small step, but it is a step forward,” Min says.