Nathan Rosas, 13 (right), Avryan Flores, 16 (center) and Angela Rosas, 16, protest outside Angel of the Winds Arena on Saturday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nathan Rosas, 13 (right), Avryan Flores, 16 (center) and Angela Rosas, 16, protest outside Angel of the Winds Arena on Saturday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gun sale spurs protest outside Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena

Citing the nation’s plague of mass shootings, protesters point to gun sales as a major culprit. The sale’s organizer says their process ensures sales to qualified people only.

EVERETT — Outside, protesters held signs decrying gun violence. Inside, the Everett Gun Sale in the Angel of the Winds Arena’s conference center was quiet at midday Saturday, with few attendees.

About a dozen protesters spoke about school shootings and background checks for those purchasing guns at gun shows in general.

Big Top Promotions, the organizer of the event, emphasized their process for selling guns was safe. The gun sale continued Sunday at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center.

One of the protesters Saturday was 13-year-old Nathan Rosas.

“I don’t think my little sister that’s only 6 years old should be going through lockdowns and being scared to go to school,” Nathan said. “The world is really disappointing.”

Nathan’s mom, Amanda Hobbs of Lake Stevens, helped organize the protest. In a phone interview, she said her family history makes this issue particularly sensitive for her. In 2020, she said, a family member tried to take their own life with a gun.

Hobbs said she was struck by “how easy it was for (the relative) to turn around less than six months later and purchase another gun.”

Stricter background checks could keep people with mental health issues from accessing those weapons, proponents say.

“I don’t take away from everyday law-abiding American citizens being able to bear arms,” she said, “but I do think we do need stricter gun laws.”

The protest was cohosted by Everett Clinic Defense, a group that rallies outside the Everett Planned Parenthood clinic on 32nd Street to support it and its patients, and Snohomish County Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group.

Gun sale organizer Craig Terry of Big Top Promotions did not want to be interviewed Saturday, objecting to a Daily Herald reporter’s use of an audio recorder. He directed a security staffer to escort the reporter out of the conference center.

Earlier, Big Top Promotions issued a statement via email.

“(We) are extremely upset with the recent tragedies in our communities,” the statement read in part. “(We) renew our call for action on the underlying issues of senseless violence.”

Some steps towards addressing those issues include higher security in schools and destigmatization and treatment for mental illness, the statement said.

“(We) support the lawful ownership of firearms by qualified responsible persons for sporting and defensive purposes. (We) have long advocated for thorough background checks, safe storage and comprehensive training,” the statement said, noting that buyers have to pass a background check conducted by local law enforcement.

Big Top’s statement underscored that the business follows the law and that guns at the sale were unloaded, “tied as to be inoperable, then further secured with cables.” No one but security staff and law enforcement was allowed to have a loaded gun, the statement said. People under 21 weren’t allowed to handle handguns, and minors weren’t allowed to handle any guns at all.

“(We) have a huge customer base in (Western Washington) of persons from all walks of life,” the statement read, “(We) avoid political partisanship, and instead focus on serving our customers. (We) feel honored to have the support, loyalty and continued business of our neighbors.”

For those at the protest, the very existence of a gun sale was cause for concern.

Janean Desmarais, an Everett Clinic Defense leader, said she and the other protest organizers wanted to take a stand and “change the narrative.”

“With the amount of guns that are already floating around in circulation, it’s unnecessary to have gun shows like this,” Desmarais said. “What do we have, like 100 guns for every man, woman and child in this country now that’s available? But yet we still have to have shows.”

The 2022 gun sale was embroiled in controversy when it was scheduled in the conference center the same say as Everett Public Schools graduation ceremonies in the arena next door. Big Top Promotions postponed the event by a day.

“We live here too,” Terry said at the time, “and try to be good citizens in our community.”

The gun sale followed on the heels of the latest mass shooting that captured nationwide attention: the killing of five family members, including an 8-year-old, in Texas on Friday.

“It seems like almost every morning I open up the news and there’s another mass shooting,” said Naomi Anita Dietrich, founder of Snohomish County Indivisible, at the protest Saturday.

Dietrich said gun shows are a problem nationwide because of a lack of regulation and background checks, though she noted that’s not the case here in Washington, where laws are stricter.

“I have grandkids in the school system and I get scared,” Dietrich said. “Every time there’s a school shooting, I think about them.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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