A new backdoor attack on gun shows in an unlikely location

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Granted, it’s been more than twenty years since I’ve been there, but I don’t remember Topeka, Kansas as a hotbed of anti-gun activism. So perhaps this attempt to go after gun shows will end up being more of a molehill than a mountain, but I think it’s still worth highlighting as an example of the type of pressure gun control activists are trying to apply to the private sector in order to attack the right to keep and bear arms.

Last week the Topeka Gun and Knife Show took place at the Stormont Vail Event Center, and resident and gun control fan Tim Bascomb is awfully upset about that fact. In a column for the Topeka Capitol-Journal, Bascom argues that Topeka-based Stormont Vail Health should do something (what, exactly, remains unclear) to disassociate itself from something as awful as a gun show.

I’m sure other Kansans are thankful for the dedicated care given to them or family members during the COVID pandemic, when almost all of Stormont Vail’s 586 hospital beds were full, and staff were at risk but kept showing up to treat and save those who were suffering.

Let me ask, then, why would an institution so devoted to health let its name be regularly associated with potential death? On Sept. 10 and 11, the Topeka Gun and Knife Show displayed its wares — once again — at the Stormont Vail Event Center.

For $12, an adult could see and buy an array of lethal weapons, including shotguns, rifles and handguns, the weapon most often used in murders and suicides.

For only $4 a child could enter as well. That includes a 6- or 7-year-old like the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School or a 9- or 10-year-old like the 19 killed by a shooter in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

We all have access to these guns, including people with a history of mental health issues or violence, and we don’t have to worry about missing the September show. We can come back to the Stormont Vail Event Center on Oct. 22 or Dec. 10 for further shows, buying guns at a facility named for our main Kansas health care institution right through the end of 2022.

Unless Bascom is an idiot, he understands that Stormont Vail purchased the naming rights to the event center (which used to be called the Kansas Expocenter), but that contract isn’t likely to allow the company to give the thumbs up or down to any particular event that’s booked there. Instead, it looks like Bascom is pressuring the company to in turn push commissioners in Shawnee County to ban gun shows on the property.

I fully expect to see a lot more of this type of activism in the wake of the Bruen decision; efforts aimed at denormalizing gun ownership more than effecting any outright ban. I do have to say that it’s particularly galling to see this from a guy like Bascom, who’s also the director of the Kansas Book Festival. I’m sure that event features material that someone finds objectionable for one reason or another, and it also has a healthy list of sponsors who might be susceptible to a pressure campaign directed their way.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if that happens, but in the meantime keep your eye out for this type of pressure campaign against your own local convention center or event hall that hosts gun shows. With the stinging defeat the gun control lobby suffered in Bruen, anti-gun campaigners are doing everything they can to make it more difficult to exercise your Second Amendment rights as well as trying to delegitimize the right itself, and gun shows have long been one of their favorite targets.