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Salt Lake County requires background checks for purchases at gun shows (updated)

File photo courtesy of Deseret News

Salt Lake County will now require background checks for all firearms purchases at events or gun shows in the county, starting January 1, 2020.

“Given concerns throughout the nation over gun violence, I felt, as do many in the community, in fact, most in the community, that background checks are indeed a good thing as a preventative measure. I’m not naive enough to think this solves our nation’s challenge, be it in a home or with a mass shooting, but I feel this is a step that can be taken by the county mayor,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

Current laws for gun shows

Currently, sales by licensed dealers at gun shows require background checks already, but private sales are not subject to background checks.

Wilson was asked if there has been any violence or crime from a gun purchased at one of the events.

“There, as far as I know, luckily have not been incidents at our facilities,” she answered.

Wilson said she attended a gun show and appreciated the level of security, but felt this was something she could do as mayor.

Consulting with major players

She did have conversations with members of the legislature about it beforehand, but she said that if lawmakers take action over this, the county will have to re-visit the position.

Wilson said she consulted with the Salt Lake County district attorney before making the change. Also at the news conference was Dan Hayes with the county’s facilities contractor, SMG, which operates three venues in the county where these gun shows are held.

“If someone is selling a firearm off-property or somewhere else, those are obviously things that we can’t control. This policy really covers the licensed space in which an event is being held,” said Hayes.

Crossroads of the West Gun Shows Vice President Rob Templeton said accommodating the county’s new rule will be difficult.

“We are just trying to get the details worked out on how this would look and how this would go,” he told the Deseret News.

He said he doesn’t know if it’s legal or how they would manage it. Their next show is scheduled for February 2020.

Gun rights groups respond

Clark Aposhian of the Utah Shooting Sports Council said that’s exactly what is going to happen now — he sees this change pushing people to the parking lots or sidewalks to conduct private sales.

“If the mayor can find her way clear to banning private transactions at a gun show, what’s to stop her from banning the sale of semi-automatic firearms, magazines over ten rounds, hollow point ammunition and so forth?” he said after the news conference.

Aposhian said the debate is not about whether background checks are good, it’s about the process, and the debate belongs in the legislature. He also said if the mayor wanted to end gun violence, she ought to focus on suicide and domestic violence.