Show of arms Event promoter vows background checks on gun sales
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 23,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Vendors set up for the gun show at the Franklin Center in Rutland on Friday.
Bill Borchers thinks Vermont and its gun laws have gotten a bad reputation in recent months. He’s trying to change that perception by setting an example at his gun shows.
For seven years the Chester man has brought the Vermont Gun Show to venues throughout Vermont — including Rutland, where hundreds will gather today and Sunday for the show’s fourth annual appearance in the city.
In Borchers’ experience, the vendors, buyers and sellers who attend his shows are responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
Which is why in the wake of the shooting spree in Connecticut three months ago, he said he’s discouraged that Vermont’s gun laws and sales are being portrayed as what he describes as “the lawless West.”
“Right after the unfortunate scene in Connecticut, Vermont got a lot of undue press about being a wide-open state where you can buy guns off the street,” he said.
Borchers was referring to the fact that in Vermont, gun shop owners are required by federal law to perform background checks on buyers but no conditions or restrictions exist for private sales — including those at gun shows.
Some Vermont communities have imposed their own rules for gun shows, including Burlington which bans the sale of assault weapons at shows and Barre where background checks are required for all transactions at shows.
Rutland doesn’t have any special requirements for gun shows on the books. Mayor Christopher Louras has said that he leaves public safety issues in the hands of his police chief and he reiterated that view this week.
“I’m not at all worried,” Louras said. “Like I said before, unless there’s a compelling reason to get involved, then I will take no role in their affairs.”
Borchers said he doesn’t want to give city officials or anyone else the idea that his gun show is a place where guns could end up in the wrong hands. That’s why one of the house rules for his show is that vendors and private sellers alike must do background checks on potential buyers.
“I didn’t want guys in the inner city saying ‘Hey, lets go to Vermont to buy guns,’” he said. “Dealers and nondealers alike don’t want to sell their guns to a felon.”
At no additional expense, Borchers said his show provides sellers with the means to conduct the background checks.
Of the 50 background checks conducted so far this year for sellers who were not gun shop owners at his shows, Borchers said only one buyer didn’t check out.
The gun show’s willingness to expand the level of background checks, coupled with a high level of security, put it in good standing with Rutland Police Chief James Baker.
“The promoter reached out to us early on,” he said. “He’s very conscientious. We’re not expecting any issues.”