Judges may allow gun shows at Alameda County Fairgrounds

Guns would have to be tethered, unloaded

Gun shows could be headed back to the Alameda County Fairgrounds, with unloaded guns on tethers.

At a hearing this week on the long-running battle over gun shows at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton, a federal appeals court appeared headed toward a narrow ruling rejecting two gun show promoters' constitutional challenge to county restrictions on firearms at the facility.

The promoters, Russell and Sally Nordyke, have been trying to overturn a 1998 Alameda County law banning guns from the fairgrounds.

The Nordykes filed their lawsuit challenging the law in federal court in San Francisco in 1999, following the passing of the law, which came in response to a 1998 shooting at the fair in which eight people were injured.

The idea of allowing guns on tethers surfaced near the end of the hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after a lawyer for promoters Russell and Sally Nordyke conceded "it would be possible to have a gun show" in a revised format proposed by the county.

In the modified format, unloaded guns displayed to prospective buyers would be tethered by cables several feet long to a secure base. If the appeals court concludes there is no legal barrier to holding gun shows at the fairgrounds, it could dismiss the Nordykes' appeal without have to rule on complex broader issues of Second Amendment rights raised by the case.

The Nordykes, who live in Glenn County, claim the measure effectively prevents them from operating gun shows at the county fairgrounds in Pleasanton in violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and First Amendment right of free speech.

At a hearing before the Court of Appeals on Monday, Peter Pierce, a lawyer for the county, said gun shows could comply with the law if the unloaded firearms inspected by prospective buyers were secured to a solid base with cables several feet long.

The session was before a rarely convened 11-judge panel of the court, where the Nordykes brought their appeal of a ruling last year.

Chief Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski picked up on Pierce's suggestion at the hearing, telling Donald Kilmer, a lawyer for the Nordykes, "They said you could do it.

"You won. Why don't you go home?" Kozinski said.

Kilmer initially demurred, saying, "No, we cannot conduct a gun show with guns tethered to a base."

But after Kozinski and fellow Judge Susan Graber persisted in questioning, Kilmer conceded, "I can imagine it would be possible to have a gun show that way."

"OK, case over. I would think you would be doing cartwheels," Kozinksi commented. The panel will issue a written ruling at a later date.

The case has already been through the federal trial and appeals courts several times, most recently against the backdrop of landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2008 and 2010 holding that the right to bear arms applies to individuals and not just to state militias.

The case also includes broader issues, such as whether gun show restrictions impair citizens' right to keep a gun at home for self-defense, and what legal standard should be used to evaluate that question.

The hearing also touched on historical understandings of citizens' rights to buy guns at the time of medieval English common law in 1791, when the Second Amendment was ratified, and in 1868 when the 14th Amendment was approved. The 14th Amendment's due process guarantee was the basis for a 2010 Supreme Court decision that the Second Amendment applies to actions by state and local governments as well as by the federal government.

Pierce urged the panel to avoid ruling on the broader issues by following the judicial tradition of deciding cases narrowly when possible.

In addition to the county's proposal that guns in shows at the fairgrounds could be tethered, state law requires that weapons displayed at gun shows must be unloaded and made nonfunctional with plastic or nylon straps.


Like this comment
Posted by What about the right to arm bears
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

Hunting would be more "sporting" if the game could shoot back!

Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegseggerr
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:52 am

Ironic that we can't have July 4th fireworks at the fairgrounds because of a years-ago shooting during the county fair, but we can have a weapons show there.

Like this comment
Posted by E
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

Finally!!! I am sick of having to drive long distances to go to a show.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

I've attended several gun and knife shows in CA and found them very interesting.

A few of my senior friends own guns and they claim that they feel safe packin'.

I prefer going to rock/mineral shows where I pick up interesting items for my garden.

A few of my friends even practice shooting their guns. I find it boring.

Like this comment
Posted by Awesome
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Finally is Right!! Looking forward to attending one in town!

Like this comment
Posted by Mike Cheney
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Would we stop having car shows if someone was hurt by a car at the fairgrounds due to them "Lighting Up" their tires? NO! This was a waste of time and We should have the right to have Gun Shows if it is supported by the people. By the attendance of Gun Shows I would say it is a YES.

Like this comment
Posted by Dwaine Taylor
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Can you imagine test driving a car that is tethered? Getting the feel of a gun that is tethered is just as ridiculous. Congratulations to Judge Kozinski for leaving yet another jack-booted hoof print on trampled citizenry.

Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

wooooho. 'bout time!

Like this comment
Posted by Vicki Broset
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I had attended many gun shows when they were at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton and not one time was there ever a problem. So why were they punished for the fair times' situation and Mary Kings push to ban gun shows? It really was wrong and a restraint of trade to the promoters and each individual that set up and brought revenue to that community. It wasn't just firearms, it was coins, jewelry, ammo, safes, sporting goods, accessories, jerky, knives, and just so much more, something for everyone and always busy. Personally a lesson needs to be taught to Alameda County that they can't keep doing this to people, especially when the fairgrounds are for the public. I hope the Nordyke's get all they deserve after their long hard fight. This wasn't a fight just for themselves, but a fight for the people's rights in the state of CA. Had the Nordykes not done this, do people realize what could have happened all over? Kiss your 2nd admendmentrights goodbye. There is so much that people don't realize if they don't read into all of it. That's why they have fought this so hard. Thank-you to Russ & Sallie Nordyke, and their lawyer Don Kilmer!

Like this comment
Posted by Vicki Broset
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

As for guns being unloaded and tethered....the firearms at all shows are UNLOADED, that is just the rules of any show. All firearms must be strapped too unless being inspected and then immediately restrapped. It will be interesting to see them strapped and possibly tethered it that is something that is implemented. Why do people not read what is already being done instead of just slamming things out there thinking it will work without thinking things through? All Local, State, Federal laws must be obeyed at a show just as if you walk into a regular place of business. It's just the way it is. I hope the judges figure this out.

Like this comment
Posted by PATB
a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I have attended dozens of gun shows over the years and not only have not experienced one single problem but have engaged very good and solid people. I have observed gun owners at shows and gun ranges who are helpful and experienced and comfortable with guns. The people who seem to have the problem are the ones who do not own or have no experience with firearms. I would suggest that in most instances if you do not have the education or time in with something it makes it very hard to pass judgement on matters that you do not understand.

Safe and sane gun owner

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I support the presence of guns in the home as a safety precaution.

I know how to shoot and I make sure mine are kept clean and in a safe place. They are ready to shoot.

I've also taught a few seniors how to clean and handle a handgun.

Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm


I have owned and fired all manner of guns (handguns, shotguns, rifles, single-shot, repeater, semi-auto, full-auto), but I generally oppose gun ownership. In fact I support efforts to repeal the second amendment. I think we would be a safer country without it.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm

One big problem with the 2nd amendment is most people don't understand it. It is not about hunting and not even about self protection. The idea behind it was that the average citizens would have the fire power to stand up against a government that tried to take the power from the people. In reality the 2nd amendment was put in place to stop what has been going on in this country for the last couple decades.

Like this comment
Posted by 2nd amend
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2014 at 8:22 am

Me too, I guess people should then be allowed to store tanks, grenade launchers, and nuclear weapons in their garages. That is of course what we would need to have any chance of standing up to the government. The 2nd amendment argument is so outdated and absurd, as if a decision made over 200 years ago deserves no rethinking as it is. I am okay with all of my neighbors owning a musket. A grenade or automatic weapon, well that's another story. I do think there is room for people to own guns in a smart and regulated way. The second amendment argument is a joke. Only simple minded people cling to that notion.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Nominations due Monday for TV30’s Tri-Valley ‘Coach of the Year’ award
By Jeb Bing | 1 comment | 124 views


Readers' Choice Ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Pleasanton Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 21st. Stay tuned for the results in the June 23rd issue of the Pleasanton Weekly.