On Jan. 1, Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell asserted that a city of Asheville ordinance banning firearms on city property meant that gun shows couldn’t take place at the WNC Agricultural Center.
“Our municipal code specifically prohibits the carrying of weapons on City owned properties. I don’t understand why that law is not being enforced,” Bothwell said in his press release. He also claimed the shows do not require background checks and glamorize the use of “semi-automatic killing machines.”
But that’s unlikely to have any effect on the planned Land of Sky Gun and Knife Show being held this weekend, as any attempt to prohibit it faces potential legal complications.
The center is run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture under a long-term lease. Last summer, with legislation, state legislators ordered the city to turn over ownership of the land to the state as well. But according to City Attorney Bob Oast, the transfer hasn’t happened yet.
Gun shows haven’t taken place in the U.S. Cellular Center (formerly called the Asheville Civic Center) since November 2009. The center is owned and operated by the city. According to center staff, the promoter left for its own reasons.
State law may also make it difficult for the city ordinance to have any effect on gun shows: It forbids cities and counties from treating gun shows differently than any other type of commercial activity, declaring that that “no county or municipality, by zoning or other ordinance, shall regulate in any manner firearms shows with regulations more stringent than those applying to shows of other types of items.”
Bothwell, in an email to Xpress shortly after his announcement, wrote that he’d consulted with Oast on the matter and was on solid legal ground.
However, Oast says he’s still investigating how the state rules will affect any local attempts to restrict gun shows, and will have more information at Council’s Tuesday, Jan. 8, meeting.
“The state, by statute, has indicated a pretty clear intent to pre-empt attempts to regulate firearms, including firearm shows, and we’re currently looking at the implications of that,” he tells Xpress.
— community reporter Bill Rhodes also contributed information to this piece