Fair board addresses gun shows

Fair board addresses gun shows
Gary Brennan, a master hunter education instructor, tells board members the gun shows are safe events because they are highly regulated and very restrictive. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Gun shows will continue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

After about an hour-long public comment period at the Nov. 15 22nd District Agricultural Association board meeting, none of the eight directors present asked to move forward with a future action item to stop the events.

Crossroads of the West has been hosting gun shows at the state-owned facility, which is governed by the 22nd DAA, without incident for 26 years.

A group of local residents called Advocates for Gun Safety has been peacefully protesting outside the venue during the last few shows.

Prompted partially by that and the addition of four new board members since the topic was last addressed — with the same result — in 2013, Director David Watson asked for a discussion to provide information and education.

The 22nd DAA board was not scheduled to take any action at the recent meeting.

About one-third of the approximately 30 people who signed up to speak oppose the gun shows, which are currently held five times a year and provide more than $600,000 of revenue to the fairgrounds.

They offered statistics about gunshot deaths and the story of a woman who as an adult suffered panic attacks as a result of her father shooting himself and her mother with a firearm he purchased at a gun show.

“Guns are weapons of mass destruction,” one speaker said. “If the fairgrounds keeps feeding guns into our community more people will use them.”

Advocates for Gun Safety members insist they aren’t attacking the Second Amendment.

“We’re not against people owning guns,” Wayne Dernetz said. “We are for laws that protect us from gun accidents and guns getting into the wrong hands.”

“Ending gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is one way to reduce the gun culture,” he added.

The group also believes the events are not appropriate at the fairgrounds.

“It seems as though you’re creating an atmosphere here that the gun shows are like the fair,” Solana Beach resident Kathy Murph said. “Kids don’t get it. They think it’s cool. … Anything that we can do to keep from glamorizing that guns are cool would be great.”

Gun show supporters included a hunter education instructor, a single mother who purchased and learned to use a firearm after a seeing a prowler multiple times in her yard and Louise Abbott, a longtime Solana Beach resident.

“Having a gun show does not glorify guns,” Abbott stated in a letter to the fair board. “To believe that could be true, one would have to accept that the use of the Fairgrounds for the county fair’s abundant supply of fried foods must glorify gluttony and possibly the various diseases associated with such a diet.”

Two state Assembly members also weighed in.

“While the legislature continues to chip away at the 2nd Amendment rights in this state, I would be grateful to see a successful and safe event continue to be held at the Fairgrounds for the law-abiding gun owners of Sand Diego County,” Brian Jones wrote in a letter to the 22nd DAA.

“The Del Mar Fairgrounds is owned by the people of California,” a representative from Marie Waldron’s office said while reading a letter from the 75th District legislator. “Since there is no legitimate reason to deny use of this venue by the Crossroads of the West gun show, I respectfully ask you to allow the shows to continue.”

According to a staff report from Pat Kerins, security manager for the 22nd DAA, Crossroads of the West is in complete compliance with all state gun show laws, which are among the strictest in the nation.

People buying a weapon cannot leave the property with it. They are subject to a background check and must wait the required 10 days before taking possession at a gun shop from the sellers, who must all be licensed.

Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines cannot be sold. Law enforcement officers are onsite, some in uniform, to monitor the crowd for parole violators, suspicious activity and people who are not authorized to buy guns.

Of the 265 vendors who participate in the event, only about 35 sell firearms and ammunition, Kerins said. Gun shows are held at other state-owned facilities in California, including the Orange and Ventura County Fairgrounds.

“This was about information and education,” Director Kathlyn Mead said. “This is not an issue that … I should apply my personal ideals to.

“I have a … duty as a fiduciary to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and this has helped me to understand my responsibility,” she added. “I wanted to ensure that we are abiding by the rules and the guidelines of the state and we‘ve done that.”

“The board focused on whether the gun show complies with federal or state laws,” said Rose Ann Sharp, co-founder of Advocates for Gun Safety. “We believe the focus should be on whether holding a gun show on a state-owned property, whose mission is entertainment and education, is beneficial to the community.

“The fairgrounds hosts the county fair, music festivals and horse races,” she added. “Holding gun shows in the same venue is akin to a pediatrician renting his office to a tobacco shop. The health crisis created by the proliferation of guns is exactly like the health crisis created by cancer-producing cigarettes and secondhand smoke.

“Yesterday, the gun lobby had the loudest voice, as they often do,” Sharp said. “That is why it will take bold leadership on the parts of all public boards of state facilities to help reduce death by guns.”

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