When the Washington State Fair opens Friday in the Tacoma suburb of Puyallup, it will be officially a “gun free zone” with metal detectors at the entrance, plus heavy police presence and bans on “weapons of any kind, including knives and all firearms,” as noted by MyNorthwest.com.
According to KIRO News, the CBS affiliate in Seattle, the entrances will look like TSA checkpoints, probably with the accompanying long lines of people trying to get in. Whether this intense security will have a negative impact on attendance won’t be known until the fair concludes Sept. 22.
The concern is heightened by recent mass shootings at venues that included a garlic festival in the California community of Gilroy. About a million people traditionally attend the fair, which used to be known as the Western Washington State Fair or the Puyallup Fair until organizers decided they were something more. In days gone by, people would be encouraged to “Do the Puyallup.”
The fairgrounds cover several acres. Located on the south side of Puyallup, the fairgrounds are bordered on all four sides by roads, including one state highway and one major north-south street and a large hillside overlooks the area from the south. Concerts are held in a large area with grandstands on two sides, and this year’s fair features some major acts including the Beach Boys, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Billy Idol, according to KIRO.
KING News, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, reported that all bags will be checked, police officers will be stationed at the gates, and there will be additional security for at least two of the scheduled concerts. KIRO also noted that police conducted active shooter training at the fairgrounds recently.
There is no small irony in the fact that the Puyallup fairgrounds is also the site for regular gun shows operated by the Washington Arms Collectors. The fairground has been home to WAC gun shows for decades, although passage of at least two gun control initiatives since 2014 has been blamed at least in part for declining attendance.
KIRO also noted that there have been no major security incidents, “but staff are taking proactive measures to keep people safe.” Recently, however, one rights group was critical of the “gun free zone” concept, arguing that it makes people “sitting ducks.” The Second Amendment Foundation called such zones “shooting galleries for maniacs.”
Other items are banned including alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs, marijuana, roller blades, bicycles and “Any item that is deemed by the Safety Inspection Staff and/or Fair management to be dangerous.”
Earlier this month, more than 30 people were killed at two mass shootings, one in El Paso, Texas and the other in Dayton, Ohio. Those incidents came a week after the California shooting.