Prince George's County slams brakes on gun shows

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Gun Control,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County has put a stop to any gun shows for the foreseeable future, citing uncertainty over state and federal weapons laws.

Silverado Gun Show owner Frank Krasner found out about the decision while he was planning a show at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. In the middle of a contract dispute, he said, county Director of Parks and Recreation Ronnie Gathers sent him a letter canceling the event, which would have been held this weekend.

The letter mentioned the recent mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., calling the decision a "temporary moratorium."

"I've been doing shows there since 1993," Krasner said. "They could give me the key ring to the place and I could lock the door behind me."

Officials at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the organization responsible for managing parks and land use issues in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, passed down the decision, called the ban a security measure. Until it's clear what new regulations may appear, they said, the county should hold off.

"We're waiting to see what the state and federal government decides with regard to gun shows," facility director Roslyn Johnson said. "We thought it was the right time for us to step back."

For Krasner, though, stepping back can mean a lighter wallet. He said the county was playing politics at the expense of law-abiding gun owners.

"This is legal trade we're talking about, not the black market," he said. "This not only took money out of my pocket, but close to 100 exhibitors.' "

Krasner shared the news on his company's Facebook page, drawing dozens of angry comments about the new policy.

"Once again, lawmakers choose to punish the innocent because of the actions of criminals," commenter Brian Ford said on the Silverado Facebook page. "Just plain stupid and unfair." Others called for a boycott of the Show Place Arena.

Officials with the Park and Planning Commission said that potential gun show protests could be a safety concern and that gun show regulations probably will be addressed soon by Congress.

"At the end of the day, the taxpayers want us to make sure whatever we do is safe for all involved," Johnson said. "We don't want to enter into a contract when we know that changes could be made."

Commission spokeswoman Anita Pesses said the commission would re-evaluate the moratorium "once the environment is more clear."

Krasner, meanwhile, is planning a show in West Virginia to make up for this weekend's loss. He said he's not sure what to do about another Prince George's show scheduled for July.

"I'm the longest-running continuous event in that building, and I may not come back," he said. "It's business, but it's hard not to take it personally."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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