For local attorney Clay Wilkey, the upcoming gun show planned for Sept. 21-22 at the Owensboro Sportscenter should not happen.

Wilkey, who approached the Owensboro City Commission about the matter on Tuesday, is concerned about "the optics" of allowing a gun show to take place on city-owned property in the wake of the gun violence and mass shootings across the country.

"If tragedy strikes Owensboro -- and I am not so naive to think it can't happen here because every place says, 'We never thought it could happen here,'" Wilkey told the city commission. "I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and I want to be able to look at my daughter when she comes to me and asks questions. … I want to feel secure that I've done everything in my power to stop the senseless recurrence of tragedy."

Wilkey said that gun shows make it too easy for firearms to exchange hands without background checks or what's referred to as the "gun show loophole."

That's when a private seller, who does not have to meet federal background requirements, sells to another private party. Federal law requires sellers who have a federal firearms license to perform background checks at gun shows.

"All it takes to purchase a gun at a gun show is a $6 admission ticket, cash in hand and a state ID," Wilkey said.

"There's no requirement for background checks; no checks done for past instances of domestic violence or felony convictions."

Wilkey also cited a federal law known as the Gun-Free School Zones Act. It prohibits firearms "within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school that provides elementary or secondary education."

He said the law would apply to the Sportscenter because Owensboro Catholic High School measures less than 1,000 feet away, according to Google Earth.

City Attorney Steve Lynn, however, cited a 2012 state law -- KRS 65.870 -- that prohibits local firearms ordinances, "rendering any existing or future ordinances, rules, policies, etc. addressing the manufacture, sale, purchase, taxation, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, components of ammunition, firearms accessories 'null, void, and unenforceable.'"

Lynn also said state law "creates a civil cause of action against local governments."

"So, if the City of Owensboro enacts an ordinance, rule, or policy restricting the sale of firearms, anyone that is affected by that ordinance can sue the city for monetary damages," said Lynn in an email. "And in addition to the civil suit … provides that a violation of this statute constitutes official misconduct in the first degree or official misconduct in the second degree, which are Class A and B misdemeanors under the Kentucky criminal code."

Robert Alvey operates the Henderson-based Midwest Promotions that has been bringing gun shows to the Sportscenter for 10 years. His last gun show at the Sportscenter was in March.

"This is the first time I've heard of anybody trying to twist the arm of the city or anybody to try to get us to stop a show," Alvey said.

Alvey also disputed the "loophole" claim of gun shows.

He said most of the gun show vendors have their federal firearm licenses but there are some private sellers and collectors there who would not be bound by federal laws.

"There is no law prohibiting any individual from selling a gun to another individual … they keep calling it a loophole but there's no loophole," Alvey said.

Although Wilkey does plan to pursue a Kentucky Attorney General's opinion on the gun show legal matter, he also argued the city's moral responsibility regarding the issue.

"Why are we, in the year 2019, selling guns on city property? Why is the city profiting from that?" said Wilkey in a follow-up interview.

The city does own the Sportscenter property but it's managed by Spectra, which collects the rent and concessions from such events.

However, according to Angela Hamric, the city's finance and support services director, the city receives $5 for every vendor table at the gun show. In March, the city received $290 from 58 tables.

"If someone comes from out of town, this is so they don't have to get a business license," Hamric said. "All they have to do is pay $5; the city takes it and we're done. We do that to promote economic development."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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