Surrey gives green light to gun show – but not ammo or handgun sales

Organizers say the move had “huge impact” and resulted in lost vendors

SURREY — Surrey council unanimously granted a permit to sell firearms at the second annual BC Rod and Gun Show this week, set for April 15 to 17 at Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

But the decision, made Monday night, came with a catch – handgun and ammo sales won’t be allowed.

“My understanding is that there will be no ammunition at the show and it will only be hunting rifles, shotgun, target rifles, etc. There will be no sale of handguns,” Mayor Linda Hepner said during the council meeting.

Coun. Bruce Hayne applauded city council for doing its “due diligence” to make sure this is a “well-run and safe show.”

He noted the RCMP have now given the security plan its support, as has the city’s festival committee.

He also congratulated organizers who “complied with everything council has asked in a timely manner. And I look forward to having a well-run good show.”

The inaugural 2015 show drew about 8,500 people, according to its website, and was incident-free.

Show manager Steven Bednash said Tuesday the move to restrict ammo and handgun sales had a “huge impact” on the show, resulting in many lost vendors.

But the decision was expected, he added.

“It impacted us greatly, to be honest. Because due to no ammunition sales, we lost a lot of vendors…Then the handguns is another one that really impacted us on many levels, really,” remarked Bednash. “First off, a lot of the handguns that were there last year were antiques and class. Your muskets and things like that, built before 1898, and you actually don’t need your firearms license for it. But nope, not allowed, which is bizarre thinking – that somebody’s going to pour some gunpowder in there, put a wad in and then find a lead ball, pound it in, prime it, then go shoot up Surrey with it.”

The city council decision also means the Thunderbird Fast Draw Club can’t put on their demonstration.

“They’re world record holders and some of them live here in Surrey,” noted Bednash. “They’re still coming, because they’ve got the electric versions, but it’s not as fun to watch.”

Asked if he believes the recent shooting spree was the reason for the decision, he said it likely was, but noted last year’s show was around the time of another shooting spree.

“They seem to have perfect timing when it comes to our show. We want to get rid of these guys, too. Probably more than the RCMP and the city do. They’re giving law-abiding firearms owners a bad name.”

Despite the push back from Surrey council, Bednash wants to keep the Rod and Gun Show in the city.

“It’s a little early to say, we have had discussions about whether we want to go through this again. My feeling on it is I want to stay here. Cloverdale and Surrey has a long tradition of hunting and fishing and it still does. We still have farms, we still have cattle, and we’ve got the rodeo. It’s in our heritage,” said Bednash.

“We’re a horse town, we’re a farming community, we’re a ranching community, the Cloverdale rodeo is what 75 years now? What better place to hold it. And if they just keep trying to push it out, I understand that they don’t want the criminals getting guns. Well tighten that up. Get rid of the problem, but the problem isn’t us. Our firearms are locked up better than a bank vault. The criminal get theirs smuggled in through the states.”

Despite the restrictions this year, Bednash said there will be many hunting, archery and fishing attractions to enjoy.

New this year is a 200-live trout in a casting pond.

Tammy Woods, one of the top eight Master Chef finalists, will be cooking up wild game and providing samples.

Back this year is free 3D archery for all ages, with experts on hand to show attendees how to use a bow. Demonstrations will be provided by Patricia Gonsalves, the archery tech on the series “Arrow.” Semiahmoo Archery Club will also be helping with demos. The club took home gold, silver and bronze medals in the 2016 Canadian Indoor 3D Archery Championships, held from April 1 to 3 at the fairgrounds.

Lots of prizes are set to be given away, including a deluxe wall tent, a boat from Backwater Boats and a $50,000 Dodge Ram 4×4. And parking is free.

Surrey council didn’t give the show its approval at the last council meeting on March 8. The issue at the time, according to the mayor, was the sale of handguns and ammunition and that RCMP hadn’t had a chance to review a security plan.

SEE MORE: Surrey won’t pull trigger on BC Rod and Gun Show permit

“Quite honestly, to be frank, when I heard ‘Rod and Gun Show’ I took it to be an outdoors show and didn’t realize there would actually be handguns at the show,” she said after the March 8 council meeting. “Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a necessary part of the show in Surrey at all.”

Hepner said in March it looked like this year’s event wouldn’t happen. The next Surrey council meeting was scheduled for April 11 (last night), and seeing as the show was set to begin just four days later, Hepner told the Now, “my guess is we’ll have to postpone that show. I don’t think they can meet any of the requirements they need to meet in advance.”

The mayor also took issue with the event’s name.

“If it’s a sportsman show or an outdoorsman show, why don’t you call it that? Why do you call it ‘Rod and Gun?”

Show manager Bednash was “flabbergasted” at council’s comments in March, especially because security wasn’t questions last year prior to the event, or afterward.

Click here for more information about this year’s Rod and Gun Show.