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Chamber ‘tone deaf’ on national gun issue

Great place, Boulder City. It’s a town known for a lack of gambling in a state where casinos are cherished like medieval cathedrals.

Although it has problems common to all communities, it possesses a clean, green image that other towns and cities in the state must envy. It’s known for its historic neighborhoods, spacious parks and annual public events that attract thousands of visitors. At some point, I’ll bet most of those visitors ask themselves what it would be like to live in such an idyllic oasis located 20 miles from the stark glare of Las Vegas.

Why the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce chose to spray a little graffiti on that image by including a gun show at its annual Spring Jamboree is beyond me. A perennial favorite with families, the two-day event starts Saturday. Until this year, it was an apolitical celebration of the friendly, small-town feel of Boulder City.

The gun show is produced by Western Collectibles and Firearms of Mesa, Ariz., which promotes similar gatherings throughout the region. There’s every reason to think Western, an experienced operator, will manage the show safely and professionally.

But that’s not really the point. Mixing a gun show — even if it’s technically segregated from the cotton candy concession — within the jamboree stroll shows that someone at the chamber is tone deaf on a national issue riddled with controversy and politics.

In an April 8 letter to a vocal critic, chamber CEO Jill Rowland-Lagan proved she didn’t appreciate the depth of the political water into which she’d waded. She wrote in part, “This topic can so easily be responded to based on personal political beliefs, so I am being careful to not allow any of my personal views to play a role in my response.”

She then went on to remind the critic that the chamber, “does not participate in political issues and has not taken a recorded stance on the topic of gun control. The chamber has always been a supporter of business and made this its central focus. …”

The idea that bringing in a gun show doesn’t make a political statement is absurd. Not because it’s unsafe. Not because it’s right or wrong. Because it’s 2013: In our country, just about anything associated with gun sales is controversial. From the halls of Congress to a street corner near you, this is a political issue.

Forget that nothing quite says “fun for the whole family” and “spring jamboree” like a gun show. By adding it to the program as a business promotional tool, the chamber risks alienating many locals and visitors and harming the small businesses it proposes to want to promote.

Even if the gun show attracts extra visitors, it also has drawn political fire from residents willing to protest against gun violence. Don’t take my word for it: Go on YouTube and watch the video of the recent gathering that took place outside St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church at 812 Arizona St . Protesters carried signs with slogans such as “The Supreme Court has ruled background checks do not violate the Second Amendment” and at one point began to read the names of children and teenagers killed by guns.

In today’s world, guns and gun shows are a canvas on which almost everyone sketches their own political portrait. Bringing in a gun show can’t help but make a political statement no matter your view of the issue.

The community quarrel in beautiful Boulder City mirrors the larger national debate in the wake of the slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Conn. The issue has been covered by the Boulder City Review, which has published stories, commentary and letters to the editor.

Something tells me the jamboree’s planners didn’t intend to market the event this way.

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Reach him at 383-0295 or at jsmith@reviewjournal.com.

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