The Gila Fish and Gun Club sponsored their annual summer gun show at the Hanover Outpost over the weekend, and organizer George Shepard said about 1,000 people came out to shop and peruse items sold by about 35 vendors.
Wares included firearms, accessories, knives, memorabilia, jewelry and food.
“Attendance was slightly down this year,” he said.
The Gila Fish and Gun Club has been around for 45 years and has put on the event for nearly as long.
“This was the 40th gun show” sponsored by the outdoor recreation group, he said.
Since the passage of New Mexico Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March, firearm sales between individuals or at gun shows now require a federal instant background check be completed at the time of the transaction — closing the so-called gun show loophole. This was a concern among gun show participants, who predicted that the new law would result in lower attendance and sales.
That appears to have been the case over the weekend in Hanover, where Dave Patton served as the FFL — the federal firearms licensee — for those who bought guns at the show and wanted to comply with the law.
“It sucked this weekend,” he said. “We did half the sales we normally would do at this show. Part of it was probably lack of advertising, and the spring gun show is always better.”
Patton said the new law discouraged sales at the show, and he reported doing only two background checks in his capacity as the gun show’s FFL.
“People are avoiding background checks,” he said. “It only takes a few minutes — we do it online — and we do it for all our sales anyway.”
Patton recently closed General Pawn and Trade, where a background check was part of all firearms sales.
“When the economy is doing good, it’s bad for pawn shops,” he said.
Anyone who bought a firearm at the Hanover gun show over the weekend without complying with the new background check law had few consequences to worry about. In February, county commissioners passed a resolution declaring Grant County a “Second Amendment sanctuary county,” joining 10 other counties in the movement at the time — which eventually grew to include 30 out of the 33 New Mexico counties. The resolution essentially meant that the sheriff would defer to his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution over state law, and refuse to uphold any laws that he interpreted as violating the Constitution.
After the background check law was passed by the state Legislature, Grant County Sheriff Frank Gomez walked that back a bit and said that his officers would enforce the law.
“Most definitely we are not above the law — we took an oath and have a job to do,” he told the Daily Press on Sunday. “It’s not that we don’t want to do it, we can’t do it. We haven’t been given the resources to do that — that’s the issue we have with it.”
It didn’t appear that deputies made any direct attempts to police any of the transactions made at the Hanover Outpost this weekend. Gomez said that deputies were in the area but didn’t check to see if vendors or attendees were following the new law.
“We had guys doing frequent patrols, and, no, we probably didn’t check paperwork — we were there for safety reasons,” he said.
Chris Mathys, a Republican candidate for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, was at the gun show and said he supports the Second Amendment sanctuary county movement.
“The Constitution trumps state and local laws,” he said, adding that “America doesn’t need any new gun laws. I strongly believe that America needs to look at better treating mental illness.”
Mass shootings, he said, are caused by “deranged people that need treatment or incarceration — people who hurt other people have severe mental illness and need treatment.”
Mathys also blamed people who have entered the U.S. illegally for violence involving firearms.
“The problem is people who are criminals who have entered the country illegally. We need to deal with that. Fifty percent of crimes — auto theft, DWIs, burglaries, for example — committed in New Mexico are related to illegal aliens and felons,” he said. “So many people living here illegally are committing crimes.”
Patton, too, fell back on the argument that “guns don’t kill people — people kill people. If guns kill people — then cars drive drunk and spoons make people fat,” he said.
Although gun show attendance and sales were down — Patton allowed that recent mass shootings may also have caused people to stay home — the affable gun dealer seemed to think the low attendance was also a sign that gun enthusiasts weren’t worried about the possibility of new gun control legislation in response to the shootings.
“People aren’t worried right now about having their guns taken away,” he said. “That’s when they start to buy.”
“I’m trying to be optimistic,” Shepard agreed. “I was worried about how things would go with an FFL dealer, and it all went smoothly. A lot of guns went out the door, and they were all registered.”