Promoters Russell and Sally Nordyke have been trying to overturn a 1998 Alameda County law banning guns from the Fairgrounds.
The Nordykes filed their lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco in 1999, after the county passed the law in response to a 1998 shooting at the fair in which eight people were injured.
The idea of allowing guns on tethers surfaced near the end of the hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after a lawyer for promoters Russell and Sally Nordyke conceded "it would be possible to have a gun show" in a format proposed by the county.
In the modified format, unloaded guns displayed to prospective buyers would be tethered by cables several feet long to a secure base.
The Nordykes, who live in Glenn County, claim the measure blocks them from operating gun shows at the Fairgrounds in violation of their Second Amendment right to bear arms and First Amendment right of free speech.
At a hearing before the Court of Appeals, a lawyer for the county said gun shows could be allowed if they were tethered.
Chief Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski picked up on the suggestion, telling Donald Kilmer, the Nordykes lawyer, "They said you could do it."
Kilmer initially demurred, saying, "No, we cannot conduct a gun show with guns tethered to a base."
When Kozinski and fellow Judge Susan Graber persisted in questioning, Kilmer conceded, "I can imagine it would be possible to have a gun show that way."
The panel will issue a written ruling at a later date.
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