CLOVERDALE — Surrey City Council has shot down a permit for the second annual BC Rod and Gun Show, scheduled for April 15 to 17 at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.
The issue, according to Mayor Linda Hepner, is the sale of handguns and ammunition at the show and that RCMP haven’t had a chance to review a security plan.
“We want a complete review,” Hepner told the Now. “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. Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a necessary part of the show in Surrey at all.”
When first planning the event in 2014 organizers told the Now they felt “sabotaged” by the city. But the event was given the proper permits in time for a 2015 show.
But Hepner said it looks like this year’s event won’t happen.
The next Surrey council meeting is scheduled for April 11, and seeing as the show is set to begin just four days later, Hepner said, “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 Steve Bednash said as far as he’s concerned, the show is a go.
He said he was “flabbergasted” after hearing council’s comments, especially because security wasn’t questioned last year prior to the event, or afterward.
The inaugural 2015 BC Rod and Gun Show drew about 8,500 people, according to its website.
“We didn’t have one incident last year,” remarked Bednash, noting they had a large security presence and even closed-circuit cameras.
“We’re serious about safety.”
Bednash said he will do whatever the city and RCMP require. If that means adding even more security, or hiring police officers, they’ll do it.
“We’ll jump through any hoop the city wants us to to put on a great show…. We’re kind of scratching our heads this late in the game.”
Bednash emphasized that the show will get gun transactions off the street, into a safe environment, with police in attendance.
“I could go into the parking lot at city hall and do a firearms transaction – or right in front of the police station…. Right out in the open and that’s legal,” Bednash told the Now.
He added, “With all the killings in Surrey and the Lower Mainland… everybody wants to put a control on guns.”
Organizers say the exhibition will be conducted in accordance with the Firearms Act.
In Canada, firearms and ammunition can only be bought or sold by a person who has a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). In order to obtain the licence, the applicant must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and then apply for a PAL directly from the RCMP, who conduct a background and criminal record check.
Shows like this are attended by RCMP Firearm Officers who check licences and arrange for the lawful transfer of purchases.
Bednash said guns are just a small part of the event, like many other outdoors shows held throughout the country.
“It’s a traditional sportsmen tradeshow. On one hand – you’re going to have boats, quads, anything to do with hunting, fishing and camping, and on the flip side it’s going to be a rod and gun swap for people who want to get rid of their fishing gear, camping gear or firearms and hunting equipment. They can do so in a safe, neutral environment.”
Former White Rock Mayor Hardy Staub, a sportsman himself, has been a supporter of the show.
“Everybody looks at firearms and ammunition like it’s the drug trade. This is not who we are,” he said. “These are sportsmen, these are families. We have a huge amount of people that live in Surrey who are sportsmen, they either go to the firing range or they go hunting or they go fishing. And those are the people we’re doing this for.”