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Ask SAM: Why does Winston-Salem allow gun shows at the fairgrounds?
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Ask SAM: Why does Winston-Salem allow gun shows at the fairgrounds?

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Calling gun violence in America "a blemish on our character as a nation,” President Joe Biden announced six executive actions Thursday aimed at addressing the proliferation of what he says is an epidemic in the U.S.

Q: I noticed that the annual gun and knife sales event was held again in late April at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Since the fairgrounds is a public facility, if citizens don’t want our city facilities used to sell firearms, which government offices and officials should we contact?

J.C.

Answer: C&E Gun Shows have been held at the fairgrounds for many years. The gun shows are held more than annually. There will be five this year: one that was held in April and upcoming shows in May, August, October and December. The shows are legal and the city can’t refuse to rent the building to gun show promoters.

Ben Rowe, an assistant Winston-Salem city manager, explains the process the city uses for leasing the building.

“The City of Winston-Salem owns and operates the Fairgrounds and makes Fairgrounds facilities available for rental throughout the year.

“In fact, more than 100 events per year are held on Fairgrounds property by rental to outside entities. The Fairgrounds Education Building, in particular, is rented for the Triad Home and Garden Show and the Wedding Show, and it has been rented for gun shows for over ten years.

“With a few exceptions, state law governs gun licensing, ownership, and sales and does not allow local governments to treat gun sales differently than other commercial activities.

“This means that when local governments have facilities, such as the Education Building, that are made available for rental, the government cannot pick and choose as to which events will be allowed — with the exception that the grounds cannot be rented for any purpose or use that is prohibited by law.

“As gun shows are commercial activities allowed by law, the city cannot rent this property to others but refuse to rent it for a gun show. The city does, however, take measures to address safety during these events. The site has signage outlining applicable state and federal firearms laws, and both city staff and security personnel are onsite to monitor the events.”

Applications accepted

The City of Winston-Salem is accepting applications for its free City of Winston-Salem University. It will be held for 11 weeks starting Aug. 26. Classes will meet Thursday evenings for three hours.

The in-person program gives residents a better understanding of city government. They will explain the responsibilities of various city departments and the city government’s role in the community.

Topics will include city governance and finance, sanitation, utilities operations, transportation, public safety, planning and economic development, housing and recreation. Participants will be required to follow all COVID-19 state mandates, including wearing masks, that are in effect when the class begins.

Class size is limited to 20 city residents who will be selected through an application process. Participants must live in Winston-Salem. Applications will be evaluated based on the reason for participating, leadership potential and diversity.

The application and more information is posted online at CityofWS.org/CWSU. Applications can be printed and mailed in, or submitted online. Applications are also available by calling CityLink 311.

Application deadline is 5 p.m. July 23.

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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