Three wounded at shooting at Dixie Gun & Knife Show

No personal gun sales when Dixie Gun & Knife show reopens Sunday

khui@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2013 

— One of the region’s largest gun shows will reopen Sunday at the N.C. State Fairgrounds under new rules following an accidental shooting that injured three people the day before.

Police say a security guard and two others were wounded Saturday afternoon at the Dixie Gun & Knife Show after a shotgun went off as it was being checked in. The gun owner was planning to sell the weapon at the show, which attracts thousands of people to the fairgrounds in West Raleigh.

Police said that private gun sales will not be allowed at the show Sunday. Personal guns will not be allowed on property. Gun sales will be allowed only by licensed dealers within the Jim Graham Building.

“If we thought it was a problem, or it was a hazard, or it was dangerous, we would not have this show,” Joel Keith, police chief of the state Agriculture Department, said at a news conference at the fairgrounds. “Let’s keep in mind, as I said before, this was an accident, and I’m sure there’s nobody hates this any more than the guy that owned that weapon. But it’s also a responsibility of us to evaluate what we are doing and see what we can do better.”

Keith said no decision has been made yet whether private gun sales will be permanently banned.

He said private gun sales represent a “minuscule” amount of the market at the Dixie Gun & Knife Show, a quarterly event at the fairgrounds for decades.

‘We see … an accident’

Sunday’s new rules affect people such as Paul Milligan of Raleigh, who planned to sell three guns at the show to a dealer. Milligan, who said he wanted to sell the guns to help pay his bills, said police are overreacting by implementing the new rules.

He said the gun owner never should have brought a loaded weapon into the show.

“This is just a mess,” he said. “One guy gives all of us a bad reputation because he can’t follow fifth-grade safety rules.”

The 12-gauge shotgun discharged shortly after 1 p.m. inside the Jim Graham Building when its owner unzipped its case on a table for a security officer to check it at the main entrance, Keith said. The police chief emphasized that the gun went off before the security officer had a chance to examine the weapon.

Keith said birdshot pellets hit Janet Hoover, 54, of Benson, in the right torso; Linwood Hester, 50, of Durham, in the left hand; and Jake Alderman, a retired Wake County sheriff’s deputy from Wake Forest, in the hand. Hoover and Hester were taken to WakeMed, where an official said both were in good condition Saturday night and expected to be released soon.

Alderman, who was working security at the show, was treated and released at WakeMed North Healthplex.

Gary Lynn Wilson, 36, of Wilmington, who brought the shotgun, is being questioned by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, which Keith asked to handle the investigation. Sheriff Donnie Harrison said investigators will consult with the district attorney’s office about whether charges should be filed.

“Right now, what we see is an accident,” Harrison said. “If there’s something he may be charged with, we’ll find that out.”

The shooting takes place amid a time of heightened tension about gun control following last month’s school shooting in Connecticut in which a gunman killed 20 children and six school staff members. Gun-rights supporters fear that new gun control restrictions will be implemented.

Protest at Capitol

As part of Saturday’s national Gun Appreciation Day, gun-rights supporters marched around the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh. State Capitol Police estimated the crowd numbered around 200 people.

Protesters held signs such as “The Reason We Have a Constitution Is To Protect Us from Presidents like Barack Obama” and “I (Heart) My AK-47.” One sign had the words “Come and Take It!” over the image of an assault rifle equipped with a scope and bayonet.

Over at the fairgrounds, people faced long lines of an hour or more at the gun show, which closed early because of the shooting.

“I didn’t even get in the door,” said Christopher Kent of Tarboro. “I have been looking forward to this for a while.”

There were two other shootings at gun shows Saturday, The Associated Press reported. In Indianapolis, a man unloading his .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun shot his hand, and in Medina, Ohio, a gun dealer checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had bought accidentally pulled the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off the floor and struck a friend’s arm and leg.

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Hui: 919-829-4534