Brad Brown: A callous call on guns in Solano County
Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters, December 9, 2021
In a tone-deaf action just one day after a 15-year-old boy in Michigan reportedly shot and killed four of his schoolmates, the Solano County Fairgrounds Board of Directors voted on Dec. 1 to allow a gun show to be held at the fairgrounds Dec. 4-5.
This unfortunate decision by a handful of our community leaders was a callous show of disrespect to the murder victims and an act of irresponsibility toward our community. We desperately need public servants who are going to do their utmost to protect our citizens, not turn a blind eye to the source of so much death, pain and grief in our world.
Director Jeff Moorhead apparently justified his yes vote by recounting how watching “animals loot a Walmart” two years ago changed him as a person. Apparently, the slaughter of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 didn’t affect Mr. Moorhead’s attitude toward people or guns.
Board member Valerie Williams, who opposed the gun show, pointed out that 27 people were killed in Vallejo last year — all of them by firearms. UC Davis has reported that there were 39,707 deaths from firearms in the United States in 2019. The report also said that the estimated annual cost of gun injury in 2012 exceeded $229 billion — about 1.4% of gross domestic product. (health.ucdavis.edu/what-you-can-do/facts.html)
Mr. Moorhead called for “gun safety” to be taught in our schools. Some of the most horrific mass killings in our country have happened in schools: Columbine, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Parkland, Fla., and now Oxford, Mich. Why on earth would someone advocate bringing guns into our children’s classrooms? Our students need to improve their academic skills, not their ability to handle firearms.
Mr. Moorhead also leaned into that old, tired cliche that “guns don’t shoot people, people shoot people.” No, Mr. Moorhead, people with guns shoot people, and if fewer people had guns, fewer people would be killed and maimed by them.
We are in the midst of a long gun-violence epidemic in this country, and our leaders must help to contain, not contribute, to it. Guns are a fact of life and death in our society and they aren’t going anywhere. But courageous public servants must stand up against the unbridled promotion of weapons that are doing so much harm to our people, economy and the soul of our nation.
— Brad Brown/Vallejo
Is Duck hunting off the Benicia residential shoreline really a good idea?
For those of you who haven’t yet been woken at dawn by the sound of gunshots, for the second season in a row a group of local resident duck hunters have been hunting off the Benicia shoreline & State Park waters. Our beautiful straits that used to be filled with peaceful water recreation, have recently been overshadowed by duck hunters from late October to late January. Our usual mixture of kayakers, paddleboarders, windsurfers & hang gliders have receded. Who can blame them? Sharing the waterways with men shooting guns is a kill joy, not to mention unsafe.
It turns out it is technically legal. For the past 40+ years duck hunters have known that hunting was inappropriate so close to a residential community, so they hunted in nearby appropriate venues including Grizzly Island, Suisun Marsh, Mare Island & along the shores of San Pablo Bay & non-residential sections of the Napa River (all quite close by). Hunters respected the residential shoreline of Benicia & the State Park waters as off-limits to hunting. But a new generation of local hunters think differently, despite the polite request of their neighbors to hunt elsewhere. Their response is, “It’s legal. We can hunt here if we want to.” So they persist- 2-3 days a week, starting usually at sunrise, sometimes staying out on the water til noon, (or all day) returning at sunset.
Dozens of calls to the Fish & Wildlife Dept have failed to impart any change. Benicia police say, “It’s out of our jurisdiction.” Residents have consulted the mayor, the city attorney, the police chief, and the city manager. Apparently, as long as it is technically legal, there is nothing the city of Benicia, or its residents can do to stop it. Casual hikers along the SF Bay Trail, families & children playing or picnicking in the waterfront parks, bicyclists on the State Park pathways, & people whose houses look out upon the straits are unwittingly exposed to the jolting harshness of gunfire, & a visual of ducks being shot from the skies. On the west side of town it wakes and alarms children, sends dogs into a panic, and triggers those with PTSD. It is an intolerable affront to the peaceful enjoyment of our lives. Without some type of action to stop this, it may well grow to more & more hunters, eventually altering the personality & character of our town. It will impact the type of tourists we attract, & the type of businesses that may or may not prosper. It will quite likely change the very nature of our town. To most nature lovers, being viscerally exposed to duck hunting along the Benicia shoreline is not consistent with our motto
“It’s a Great Day by the Bay”.
All this said, ‘duck hunting’ itself is not the problem. Duck hunting off of the Benicia shoreline & the State Park waters is the problem. I’m calling upon all of our conscientious duck hunters in this town to speak to these younger duck hunters. Share with them your integrity, your knowledge of right from wrong, & help them understand the give & take of being part of a larger community. So far diplomacy has failed. We must therefore be prepared to designate the waters along the Benicia shoreline & the State Park off-limits to hunting. We need to establish a legal basis to return to the common sense and courtesy that prevailed for much of the past four decades. To accomplish this will require us to combine our individual voices, to unify for a common cause, & be prepared to take the necessary steps to restore & protect the peaceful enjoyment of this beautiful oasis we call Benicia.
ZOOM meeting info:
Wed, Dec 1, 2021 6 pm
Meeting ID: 899 1462 6790
Passcode: 639203 Dial In: 669 900 9128
In-person mtg: McCormack Hall, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo
Will ‘Silent majority’ of Fair Board influence gun show decision?
FAIRFIELD — A true silent majority – nine unfilled seats on the Solano County Fair Association’s 15-seat governing board – could prove to influence greatly whether gun shows will be allowed at the fairgrounds.
The Solano County Fair Association directors on Wednesday take up the issue again after voting 4-1 Aug. 9 to stop gun shows at the fairgrounds starting in 2022.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at McCormack Hall, 900 Fairgrounds Drive in Vallejo. Access is also available online. Log-in information, including Meeting ID and password, can be found at www.scfair.com.
The August action was challenged as a violation of open meeting laws, and rather than push the matter into the courts, the Fair Board opted instead to take up the question a second time.
“Since that meeting, our board has received a fair amount of feedback from our community, as well as a concern about whether the SCFA was in full compliance with the Brown Act,” Lee Williams, the lone dissenter in August and current board president, said in a statement announcing the Wednesday meeting.
“The board has therefore decided to conduct another meeting where the gun show question can be revisited. We believe this will further ensure that anyone who wishes to have their opinion considered before the board takes its final action may do so,” he said.
The upcoming meeting is considered to be a “correction” of the Aug. 9 meeting, according to fair association Executive Director Mike Ioakimedes, after speaking with the association attorney Kim Alexander-Yarbor, a deputy county counsel assigned to provide legal advice to the association and its directors.
That means the Aug. 9 action is nullified, and currently, the official policy of the fair association is to allow gun shows at the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds has traditionally hosted four or five gun shows each year, generating between $40,000 and $50,000 in revenue, Ioakimedes reported.
That is why the makeup of the board – and the unfilled positions – could be an important factor in the outcome.
The board currently has three members from the 1st District and three members from the 5th District.
The supervisors who appointed them to the Fair Board – Erin Hannigan, 1st District, and Mitch Mashburn, 5th District – land on opposite sides of the issue. Hannigan favors the ban; Mashburn does not.
One board member from each of those districts – Rhonda Smith, 1st District, and Jeff Moorhead, 5th District – were not on the board in August.
The other sitting members are: Norma Placido and Manuel Angel, 1st District, and Valerie Williams, 5th District. All favored the gun show ban in August.
Hannigan and Mashburn could not be reached to ask whether they have talked to their appointees about the gun show issue or the upcoming meeting.
It leaves a very real possibility that the board vote could end in a 3-3 tie, and by doing so, would leave in place the policy that allows gun shows at the fairgrounds.
For that to happen, however, Valerie Williams would have to change her vote to ban the gun shows.
At the time she noted she had “mixed feelings about whether we should be hosting gun shows . . . I don’t think a person’s gun rights trumps the right of a (student) to go to school and come home.”
Missing from this current board, but who represented the 2nd District at the August meeting, is Kari Birdseye. She resigned Oct. 26, but did not give a specific reason for leaving the panel in her email to Ioakimedes.
Birdseye voted in favor of ending the gun shows, citing Sen. Bill Dodd’s position that the state – and by extension the county – should not be in the gun and ammunition business.
Supervisor Monica Brown, who represents the 2nd District, said she favors the fairgrounds ban, so potentially there are missing votes there to support the prohibition.
She said in a phone interview Friday that it can be difficult to find people who want to serve on the Fair Board, and she did not have any time to replace Birdseye.
She fully expects gun shows to continue to be held at the fairgrounds.
“The fact the board is doing this over again indicates the pressure put on the board to bring (gun shows) back,” Brown said. “Sometimes that’s the price you pay when you don’t have votes on the board.”
That brings the issue back to those empty board seats, and how appointees might have influenced the decision.
Supervisor Jim Spering represents the 3rd District and has said he disagrees with banning gun shows at the fairgrounds, but called “fair” the criticism of him for failing to appoint anyone to the Fair Board.
Those are missing votes that may have opposed the gun show prohibition.
Supervisor John Vasquez, who represents the 4th District, could not be reached for comment about the upcoming meeting and did not return calls seeking comment after the first vote in August. He has not appointed anyone to the Fair Board for a number of years.
Three days after the Fair Board votes on the issue, a two-day gun show is scheduled to open at the fairgrounds.
The question is, will it be the last gun show at the fairgrounds?