For our kind of southwestern town, though, it's a right suitable place for public events.
As I approach the event center, I like to guess what's going on there. The number of vehicles parked in the adjoining lot and sometimes spilling over to other nearby parking areas (legal and otherwise) is the best clue. Time of year can be telling, too: holiday festivals, farm equipment exhibits, etc., are seasonal.
But there's one kind of event I don't have to guess about: a gun show. These things draw the biggest crowds, so that if you see people walking toward the center from illegally-parked vehicles half a mile or more away, you know they're going to a gun show.
Our state, New Mexico, has some of the weakest gun laws on the planet and its citizens seem to like it that way. Virtually anyone can own and carry a gun of virtually any type. Virtually the only restraints are that employers may legally prohibit firearms in the workplace or its parking areas, and colleges may legally prohibit firearms on their campuses. Guns are banned in some other public places, like schools and churches, as well.
Many of the public lands around my town are posted with polite requests that shooters restrain their trigger fingers except on the big, municipally-maintained shooting range west of town. There you can blast away with the weapon of your choice -- from bows to bazookas -- on a variety of ranges, with or without targets. Our very own war zone.
Yet one day when I set out to walk a popular hiking trail, there were three macho tontos blasting away with handguns at the trail head. "Excuse me," I said politely, "but we'd like to walk the trail." After what seemed like a very long pause, one of them shrugged and said, "OK." We walked with very tight sphincters until we were out of their range.
Evidence of trigger-happy binge shooting litters our desert public lands. In one particularly lovely piece of mesa-and-canyon wilderness, you can see from a mile or more away what looks like a pool of silver and gold glittering in the mid-day sun. Walk toward it and you begin to see that it's a huge pile of broken glass and metal shell casings. This less than 4 miles from the public shooting range.
As the third anniversary nears of the killings by a crazed shooter at Virginia Tech, a survivor of the massacre is conducting a one-man campaign against the kind of gun show that is so popular where I live. His name is Colin Goddard and he suffered four gunshot wounds at Virginia Tech.
Now he campaigns for sane gun-control laws, especially to curb the utterly unconstrained sales of weapons at gun shows. Funded by the Brady Campaign, he took concealed cameras on the road, visiting gunshows in eight cities in five states, seeking to demonstrate how easy it is for anyone to get any kind of lethal weapon.
Fox Fiction made a folk hero of another secret camera toting kid a while back. But you can bet the Foxies won't tell you about Colin Goddard's video.
If you want to see it, click here:
SANTA FE, N.M., Mar. 10 -- (AP) -- People licensed for concealed handguns can take their weapons into restaurants serving beer and wine under a new state law.
Gov. Bill Richardson signed the measure on Wednesday. It takes effect in July. Even with the change, it will remain illegal to take a concealed weapons into a bar or a restaurant with a full liquor license. Richardson ordered the Department of Public Safety to change its licensing regulations for concealed handguns to prohibit people from drinking alcohol while carrying their concealed weapon. The governor wants the Legislature to make that part of state law.