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Officials take aim at gun show flap

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LAPS > No plans to change policy on annual event

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club has been hosting a gun show for about a decade and a half in Los Alamos now, but if one resident’s point of view about where the show is now held gains any traction the show may have to go elsewhere.

Currently, the annual event is staged at the old Pueblo School Gym, and there is one resident that is looking to change that. Nancy Schick, a retired Los Alamos school teacher, has been pressuring school officials to disallow any further gun shows at the gym.

Even though the school has not been a school for many years, the district leases the property to different venues throughout the year, including the LASC Gun Show every August.

To Schick, it’s about public perception. “This is a school, and should we be selling guns on school property, absolutely not,” she said, adding that ever since she’s publicly voiced her objections to the media and the school system, she’s heard many arguments opposing her views.

“This is not about me not liking guns, it’s not about being against all gun shows, It’s about this being a gun show that, without question, is being held on school property,” she said.

Though she hasn’t taken any legal action, yet, she has been in contact with attorneys and political representatives to see if any laws are being violated. Even if it turns out to be not the case, she says officials should still consider the implications.

“This is just not your average community of 18,000 people living on a mountaintop,” she said. “This town that has a very high, national profile; I think they need to consider that if something happens are they willing to take the risk that if there is a shooting on a Los Alamos school campus, this country is going to be outraged at this community. No one else does this (allow for the sale on school property).”

As for the argument that the Pueblo School has not been used as a school for a long time, (Los Alamos National Laboratory, U-Haul and other businesses have taken up residence there) Schick said that’s not true, she claims other school groups have used the gym in the past and has asked for a list from the school’s superintendent, Dr. Gene Schmidt. “That argument doesn’t really matter, because it’s still school property,” she said.

Schmidt said that he’s been in contact with Schick, saying he understands her concerns.

Though he respects her opinion, he said, he believes that it’s not the school’s role, as landlord, to block community organizations from using its facilities.

“It’s my belief that the Sportsmen’s Club has every right to request the use of this facility. It serves a public need, and there isn’t anything comparable in town,” he said. “As a group, like so many others in the community, they have a right to make that request.”

He said he’s attended the gun show many times himself, and found patron and seller alike to be respectful of the community and the law.

He also said he was confident that the residents of Los Alamos can make up their own minds as to whether or not having a gun show at the Pueblo Gym is appropriate, given the recent school shootings that have made the national news.

“It also seems to me that Los Alamos residents are well-educated… and can disassociate an event from the use of an old school facility for a gun show.”

Schmidt also assured the public that though the district makes money through renting out the gym to the Sportsmen’s Club, they don’t pay any more that other organizations that use the gym.

“It’s not a financial windfall, it’s just service that we provide to a community group that we provide to many other groups,” he said.

LASC past President Ken Laintz was the one that organized this year’s gun show.

Reached at the event on Saturday, he said he was puzzled by the current controversy surrounding a show that has been happening in Los Alamos at the gym for many years.

“It is school property, but it’s not an active school,” he said. As for having guns on the property and the message that sends, he pointed out that LANL and other organizations that have armed employees and guards use the property as well.

“There are guns on school property besides this,” he said. “The school board and the school district have a list of rules, and we have to meet them, and fill out an application just like everyone else,” Laintz said.

School Board President Jim Hall said he and the other board members have been in contact with Schick and have talked with her about the subject.

However, he said that no one on the board has considered this a matter for debate.

“I have not gotten any requests from any board member to put it on the agenda,” he said.

Even if they did, he said it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference. He noted that if someone really wanted to do harm to one of the schools through a firearm, there’s little the law can do to prevent that person from getting a hold of a firearm.

“This seems to me to be one of those feel-good issues,” he said. “It’s something that isn’t going to make any real difference in the face of a problem that concerns all of our schools. I think people should put their energies into something that’s going to make a real difference. ...If I thought that holding this gun show would make a positive difference in the safety of our schools, I’m sure the board would do something.”