There were AR-15s, ammo, gun safes, feminist and California secessionists who wish to split up the state at the Hollister Gun Fair held at Bolado Park in Tres Pinos–but no customer walked out with a new gun. Some of the more than 200 people who gathered Saturday, however, left with historic collectable firearms and kits to build guns quickly.
“I’m here to make sure people do things the right way,” said Blair Snyder the Chico dental technician who put on the show with a $10 admission. “Twenty years ago you could just walk in here and buy a gun. It’s not like that anymore and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t want to be part of a mentally ill person getting guns. You hope that the Department of Justice weeds them out.”
Gun shows in California are required to adhere to the normal 10-day waiting period and gun buyers must have a Firearm Safety Certificate and pass a background check. Silencers and bump stocks, which are illegal in California, were not available.
However, customers could walk out with vintage firearms such as a 1877 Colt .38 sold for $700 by Mike Ricci from Chico and 80 percent kits which can be used to build homemade guns.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sunday that Kevin Janson Neal, who massacred five people in Rancho Tehama on November 14, used two homebuilt semiautomatic rifles built from 80 percent kits, also known as “ghost guns” because they have no serial numbers.
Despite the Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 and a reputation for having restrictive gun control laws by gun control proponents, gun control advocates say 80 percent kits have exploited a loophole in the law.
It is legal to build and own a homemade gun and there are no background checks required to purchase an 80 percent kit. Today homemade guns are not required to have serial numbers, but that will change on July 1, 2018, when a new law, AB-857, takes effect.
While mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas have renewed cries for stricter gun control, gun sales have slowed since the election of Donald Trump. In September MSNBC reported that American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith and Wesson Holding, have experienced a 48.5 percent decrease in sales, or $100 million.
Despite recurring mass shootings, which included the November 14 massacre of five in Rancho Tehama, the United States Congress is debating a bill to relax restrictions on silencers.
Besides hosting gun enthusiasts, the show had representatives who want to create a 51st state in what is now California. Proponents of the proposed breakaway state of Jefferson, in Northeastern California, had a booth at the gun show and said gun laws are already too strict. They said they felt unrepresented and resented being governed by urban centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco. They want out and have resurrected a 70-year plan to separate the mostly rural region north of Sacramento and south of Portland creating Jefferson, the 51st state.
“Why should someone in LA tell us what to do with our water?” said Don Ferreira who was selling State of Jefferson t-shirts at the Saturday show.
While gun sales have slackened, a love for guns is growing in San Benito County, which is buoyed by the opening of the Locked and Loaded Gun Shop in Tres Pinos. A women’s shooting group, The Well Armed Women, claims the motto “Where Feminine and Firearms Meet.”
Dressed in dark lavender polo shirts, The Well Armed Women operated a laser target shoot with laser guns modeled after real handguns. Nina Hansen, of Hollister, one of 34 members, worked helping players learn the proper way to handle and fire a gun.
“It’s fun isn’t it!” Hansen said.
Feeling the heft of the bright green laser gun, the resistance of the trigger and the satisfaction of scoring bullseyes between the sight of the replica appeared satisfying.