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Gun show bans AR-15s, rifle auctions in the wake of Las Vegas and Florida shootings

iStock/Thinkstock(WHEATON, Ill.) -- Following shooting tragedies in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, one gun show scheduled for this weekend in Illinois has taken the unusual step of banning the sale of bump stocks and AR-15 rifles, the kind used in both of those shootings, and will no longer be raffling off rifles, organizers said.

The Pioneer Valley Sportsman's Association (PVSA) has been hosting seven gun shows a year at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton for the past 40 years.

In the weeks following the Las Vegas music festival shooting in October that left 58 people dead, fairground management began to hear concerns from members of the community about the gun show being held in their backyards, Jim McGuire, president of the DuPage County Fair Association, told ABC News.

In particular, citizens were concerned the show might be selling bump stocks, the device found on 12 of the Vegas gunman’s rifles, enabling the guns to fire faster. The show checked with their vendors and discovered none of them sold the device and agreed to ensure the device would never be sold in the future at their shows, Frank Cesare, chairman of the sportsmen’s show for the PVSA, said.

Months later in the days after alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15-style rifle to mow down 17 students and staff members at a Florida high school, fairground officials and the sportsmen’s club began to discuss the wisdom of selling the much-maligned rifle at their shows.

“When Florida occurred, we had another discussion and they were in agreement to remove the AR-15,” McGuire said.

“We got a request from the fairgrounds to stop the sale of these weapons and we didn’t think it was real unreasonable,” Cesare said. “We are trying to be good tenants.

“I knew we would get flak from the community,” he added. “But surprisingly, most vendors understood and were sympathetic to our situation."

Only one gun vendor backed out of the show over the decision, but that’s only because the only rifles she sells are AR-15s, Cesare said.

The association also decided to temporarily suspend the practice of raffling off rifles at their shows. At their February show days before the Parkland shooting, they had raffled off an AR-15, Cesare said.

These moves are just the latest in a long history of prioritizing safety at the PVSA’s gun shows, both Cesare and McGuire said.

Vendors are not allowed to have clips in the guns, unless those guns are in a closed, sealed case, Cesare said. Gun sellers are required to string a plastic zip-tie through the gun’s action -- the place where bullets are loaded to ensure there are no bullets in the guns. The show also doesn’t allow loose ammunition, he said.

The focus on safety doesn’t end with the vendors, either. Patrons who come to the gun show are asked if they are carrying a firearm when they enter the premises. If they are, members of the association who are experienced with guns check the weapons to be sure they are unloaded, Cesare said.

The club also has members who are police officers patrol the show as security guards to make sure everyone feels safe, Cesare added.

“All their dealers follow those rules or they aren’t welcome here at the fairgrounds,” McGuire said of PVSA’s safety policies.

There is no national body that sets safety standards for gun shows nationwide, Mike Bazinet, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said. Decisions like the ones made by the PVSA are left up to individual show organizers to do what is best for the communities, he said.

Bazinet said PVSA’s policies to ensure guns on display are not loaded and that there is no loose ammunition are “very common,” but said their policy of checking to ensure guns that members of the public bring onto showgrounds are unloaded may be an unusual layer of extra security.

Despite the safety measures taken by the PVSA, at least one protest group, Friends Who March, expect to protest the show on Sunday because they believe the show features an NRA booth, Jax West, founder and president of the group, said.

Cesare said the show has not had an NRA booth in at least eight years, but West said at least 40 protesters will be there anyway.

“It’s nice that one gun show is doing this, but it is also a statement for all gun shows that we don’t want these AR-15s falling into the wrong hands,” West said.

“Safety is extremely important to any gun owner,” Cesare said. “I’m pretty proud of our club for the action we’ve taken.”

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