Gun owners concerned about gun laws during expo in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Von Braun Center does not permit firearms on its premises. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall affirmed this in a May response to a complaint.

Marshall maintained the City meets the requirements under state law to prohibit the possession of firearms because the Von Braun Center now houses the headquarters for the Huntsville Police Department Bike Patrol.

But at the highly anticipated Tennessee Valley Hunting and Fishing Expo (TVHFE) in the VBC South Hall this week, you can find firearms for sale from some exhibitors. This is the first TVHFE since Marshall affirmed the prohibiting of firearms.

Some say it seems like a double standard.

"It confuses people," said Jeff Hopper, President of Shoals Second Amendment. "One day, it says we are going to have a gun show here. And every other day, they say you can't have guns here."

Expo co-founder Will Ainsworth explained why the expo is allowing guns to be sold. He said it is legal because of an exception in the law, § 13A-11-61.3:

This section shall not be construed to prevent any of the following:

(9) A political subdivision from leasing public property to another person or entity for a gun show or other firearm-related event on terms agreeable to both parties.

"There are exceptions in the law and it spells out exactly for gun shows and gun-centered events, which we qualify for," Ainsworth said. "So we are obeying the law."

He said he also checked with the state Attorney General's office and forwarded us the following statement from that office:

"Gun shows and firearms related events are exempt from Alabama’s gun law. Therefore, the planned gun expo at the Van Braun Center would not be prohibited under state law."

Hopper said he does not oppose the expo. Instead, he wants Huntsville to be consistent with its gun policy at the VBC.

"All I want is for them to pick a side and stay on it," he said. "I have no problem with the expo. I'm glad they do it. My problem is the location of the expo. If I can't carry my firearms, why do I want to go to a gun show?"

Others also contacted WHNT News 19 to express concern about purchasing firearms at the expo. They wanted to know if they would be breaking the law if they purchased one.

Ainsworth does not want anyone to be afraid to shop, and assured it is being done in a safe way.

"Our exhibitors are allowed to sell guns," he said. "We have an officer there. If somebody purchases a gun, they escort them out."

Still, Hopper believes this situation is confusing. He doesn't want anyone without knowledge of the law to misconstrue what it means.

"Do you show up today, not knowing, and then next week come back for another event and get arrested thinking you're following the law?" he said.

Some told WHNT News 19 they would not attend the expo because they are concerned about this issue. Meanwhile, Ainsworth said he believes some of the backlash is coming as a political attack against him as he runs for Lt. Governor.