TALLMADGE: A dozen folks protesting the lack of background checks at gun shows tried to make an impression at the Summit County Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening.
This week is the Summit County Fair, but Robert Grow, a chaplain and member of Summit County Progressive Democrats PAC, said it was a good time to remind fairgoers that the fairgrounds also hosts several gun shows each year.
“You can buy semiautomatic rifles, high-capacity magazines, even hollow-tipped ammunition” without the same background checks required at gun stores, Grow said.
Grow said he didn’t know if the Summit County Agricultural Society had the authority to demand background checks at the four or five gun shows the fairgrounds hosts annually.
But if not, “they could stop hosting them,” he said. “That would be ideal.”
Many people accepted the bright yellow handouts the protesters distributed to express their views.
“Background checks do not infringe on a person’s right to keep and bear arms,” the pamphlet read. “But they do help to keep guns out of the hands of people with records of felonies, violence, or mental illness.”
Others waved off the protesters, saying they were gun owners and didn’t support universal background checks.
The group planned to return to the fair for an hour each evening this week, but short of a court order, they won’t be at the ticket gate again.
Summit County sheriff deputies told the group Ohio law forbids them from being within 1,000 feet of the gate and that a place would be designated for protesters near North Avenue, where cars make the turn for the long drive to the parking lot.
Theresa Call, vice president of the Summit County Agricultural Society, said the protesters were “breaking the law” by being at the fair gate and passing out literature.
If they want the agricultural society to know their concerns, “they are more than welcome to come to a meeting,” she said.
Grow said he would check with the group’s attorney before today’s planned protest at 6:30 p.m. Other protesters, however, acknowledged they set up at the street in March, when they last protested at the site, during an Ohio Gun, Knife & Military Show.
The Rev. John Beaty, a retired United Methodist pastor, held up a sign that read: “Aurora, Co. Columbine, Co. Chardon, Oh. Who’s Next?”
He didn’t know how much of an impact a small group of citizens could make, “but we hope we can make a difference. We’ve got to do something.”
His wife, Linda Beaty, said polls show an overwhelming percentage of Americans are in favor of checks that would keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.
“I don’t understand the fear of background checks,” she said. “It’s the minimum we can do.”