A small sample of the prohibited weapons that were seized during an investigation at the Brandon Gun and Hobby Show on Sunday. Two men were arrested.
Monday's announcement that charges could be laid against two Dryden, Ont., men for selling illegal weapons at the Brandon Gun and Collectibles Show left local gun show organizers stunned.
"Any of the exhibitors that come in should know the laws that apply," said Conrad McClure, chairman of the Brandon Gun and Collectibles Show, which is operated by the Brandon Wildlife Association. "On our application form, we specify that the exhibitors are responsible for following all of the laws having to do with firearms safety and handling. Other than that, we can't do a whole lot more than that.
"All we can do is make people aware of the consequences. When we send out our applications next year, we'll make sure we add a special letter stating that."
Two men, aged 70 and 71, were arrested on Dec. 12 at the annual local show, which led to a raid of a residence in Dryden, where more weapons were seized. One of the men arrested holds a licence to sell guns.
McClure said it was the first time that has happened at the Brandon event.
When that happens, organizers naturally become nervous about how the arrest affects the reputation of the largest gun show in Manitoba, which has approximately 75 exhibitors each year from several Canadian provinces.
"When I saw what was happening, I went over there and I was assured by a police officer that it was no reflection on the show itself, but it was a particular individual," McClure said. "We have on several occasions had police walking through the displays and looking at things and we have no problem with that. We welcome that."
Other gun show organizers in Manitoba have been keenly interested in news about the arrests, fearing it casts a cloud on gun shows as a whole.
"If one person does something, people think they are all doing it," said John Zabarylo, secretary-treasurer or the Military Collectors Club of Canada, Manitoba Chapter, which operates two smaller gun shows in West St. Paul. "I was kind of shocked to hear about this."
McClure did not expect the arrests would have any negative impact on the show next year.
"I will get in touch with (Det. Rob Duttchen of the RCMP Canadian Firearms Programs National Weapons Enforcement Support Team) and maybe in another year, it may make sense to call them to go over a few things before the show," McClure said. "We'll certainly do that. We don't want any problems."
If the arrests of the Dryden men do not result in charges or a conviction, they may be allowed to exhibit their wares at the Brandon show in the future, McClure said.
"We'd have to take a look at it," McClure said. "If he's charged with a violation, we probably wouldn't allow him back, but if this whole thing falls through, I don't know why we wouldn't."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 22, 2010 A3