DALY CITY -- Shawn Richard testified in 2004 on behalf of a bill by Jackie Speier, then a state senator representing the Peninsula, to put a halt to gun shows at the Cow Palace.
Nearly a decade later, the executive director of Brothers Against Guns stood outside the hulking exposition center in support of the latest effort to end the shows, which have eluded several legislative attempts to stop them.
State Sen. Mark Leno on Friday introduced a bill that would require the San Francisco and San Mateo County boards of supervisors to pass resolutions in favor of holding gun shows at the Cow Palace, which is owned by the state, in order for them to continue. Three previous attempts to ban the events outright -- one by Speier and two by Leno -- failed to clear the Legislature or were vetoed.
Flanked by about 20 local residents at a news conference, Leno said the bill was not prompted by the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But that and other recent mass shootings have renewed interest in gun control, he said, which could help SB 475 succeed where earlier endeavors failed.
"Certainly there is a refocusing, both in Washington and in state capitals across the country, subsequent to Newtown," Leno said. "And I think that's to the benefit of those who support ending the proliferation of firearms."
Crossroads of the West Gun Shows take place several times a year inside the Cow Palace, a faded venue that in
Cow Palace CEO Joe Barkett said the venue has hosted the gun shows for many years and never heard about any such problems from area law enforcement.
"Believe me, if they thought that was happening, we would hear about it," Barkett said. "And we would take it very seriously."
Barkett said he is sensitive to the issue of gun violence but feels the Cow Palace is being singled out as a political target. The shows are professionally managed, he said, and monitored by police. Those who purchase guns at Cow Palace events must clear background checks.
"It's misguided public policy to think that banning gun shows at the Cow Palace is addressing a very serious problem," he said.
But critics say it is offensive to hold the Bay Area's most prominent gun show in the vicinity of poor and working-class neighborhoods, including Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco, that are plagued by gun violence. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Friday there have been 75 gun-related crimes in the past six months within 2 miles of the Cow Palace.
San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said she would be inclined to vote in favor of a resolution against the gun shows, if only for symbolic reasons.
"Here we are trying to fight gun violence in our communities," Tissier said. "Having gun shows doesn't seem to send a very good message."
Leno and his supporters were unable to point to any instances Friday of crimes involving guns that were traced back to Cow Palace gun shows. But Richard, who has lost two brothers to gun violence, said he has spoken to youths who claim to have obtained Cow Palace guns secondhand. Richard said in those cases people bought the guns, sold them on the black market, and then covered their tracks by reporting them stolen.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.