Glendale inches toward banning gun shows

People gather for what may be the last gun show at the Glendale Civic on March 2, 2013. (Raul Roa / Times Community News / March 2, 2013)

The attorney for the operator of the Glendale Gun Show on Tuesday threatened legal action as the City Council introduced an ordinance to ban the event, and others like it, from city-owned property.

“This ordinance, in the way it’s drafted … will necessarily require litigation,” said Sean Brady to council members and the roughly 140 people packed inside City Hall.

PHOTOS: Gun show discussed at Glendale City Hall

Despite the threat, the ordinance, which must still come back for a final vote next week, had the support of the majority of council members. 

“This gun show being banned on Glendale city property won’t make any difference on anybody’s ability to purchase a gun,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman. “I don’t believe that it’s the responsibility of this city to host that gun show, given how unpopular it is with many of our residents.”

After the killing of 27 people, including 20 first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Councilman Rafi Manoukian floated the idea of banning the gun show. 

He had tried to have it banned in 2006, but could not get the necessary support from others on the dais. But that changed after the recent spate of deadly gun violence seemed to change the tide of public opinion locally. 

Councilmen Ara Najarian and Dave Weaver opposed the ordinance, calling it an emotional response.

“This is a kneejerk reaction. It’s an emotional reaction,” Najarian said.

The ordinance blocks the possession or sale of guns at all city parks and facilities, but exempts public right-of-ways, such as sidewalks and streets.

While the council began discussing the ban in January, it allowed the show's operator, Steve Friesen, to host one earlier this month. The event attracted thousands of shoppers, as well as dozens of protesters on both sides of the issue.

“The city of Glendale has a chance to stand up to the fear, manipulation and hastily crafted laws that deep down, we all know only harm law-abiding citizens,” Friesen said, referring to the increased focus on gun control after the Sandy Hook shooting.

While other gun show supporters echoed his sentiments, opponents said they were not ashamed to say they were partially motivated by fear.

“We have been moved to action by the mass murder of children; and what would it say about us if we weren’t?” said Joal Ryan, a co-founder of Coalition for a Better Glendale, an advocacy group that has been pushing for the ban.

At one point during the meeting, a shouting match between Mayor Frank Quintero and tea party advocate Jesse Lee Peterson broke out, which ended in a Glendale police officer escorting the founder of the South Central L.A. Tea Party out of the chambers.

While gun show advocates said the ban would violate the 1st and 2nd Amendment rights to free speech and to bear arms, city officials disagreed.

The government isn’t required to provide its property for the exercise of constitutional rights and exchanging money for a gun is not considered “speech” by federal and state courts, according to a city report.

But National Rifle Assn. spokesman H. Paul Payne called the report and ordinance ill-conceived.

“In fact, if this ordinance is passed, it could be a gift that keeps on giving,” he said, referring to the potential financial awards the NRA could extract via a lawsuit.

City officials have said banning the gun show from city property doesn’t preclude Friesen from operating an event at a private facility, such as the Hilton Glendale. 

In addition, since there are dozens of firearms dealers in the tri-city area of Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, barring the gun show would minimally impact those who want to buy guns, according to a city report. 

There are 37 firearms dealers in Glendale, five in Pasadena and 13 in Burbank.

The ordinance could take effect on April 18, after which city officials plan to cancel contracts with Friesen, who has reserved five more shows through November 2014 at the Civic Auditorium.

In 2012, three gun shows in Glendale generated about $55,000 in rental and parking revenue, or 13% of the auditorium's total income that year.

[For the Record, March 13, 2013: An earlier headline for this post incorrectly stated that the City Council "voted" on the ban. In fact, the ordinance was introduced, and will come back for a final vote next week.]

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