DEL MAR — Gov. Gavin Newsom is soon expected to sign a bill that would effectively end gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds — or at least any gun show that involves the sale of guns and ammunition.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced a bill in early 2019 that would ban the sale of firearms and ammunition at the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, co-authored by area Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas). The bill, if passed, would take effect in 2021.
“This is a victory for gun sense and making our communities safer in San Diego,” said Gloria in a recent press release.
After passing through the senate and receiving its final legislative approval on Sept. 12, the bill awaits a final signature by Newsom. Newsom, an outspoken supporter of gun control measures, has previously voiced his opposition toward Del Mar’s gun shows.
The governor has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto the bill.
Some local gun advocates think the gun show might still have a future at the venue. Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, said the bill may face the same legal obstacles currently besetting a moratorium established by the fairground’s governing board in 2018.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association voted in September of 2018 to put a one-year moratorium on gun shows at the fairground, largely due to opposition by the surrounding communities. The decision sparked Crossroads of the West to file a lawsuit against the Board, citing a violation of its first amendment rights to free speech and assembly. The California Rifle & Pistol Association, Second Amendment Foundation and several gun show participants are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
A Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on the case in June, allowing the gun show to continue for the time being.
In her memorandum opinion, the judge was largely favorable to Crossroads, calling the moratorium a “content-based restriction of speech on its face.”
The outcome of the lawsuit is pending.
After about eight months of absence, the show will be taking place on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29, with another show sometime in December. Crossroads will likely continue the gun shows in Del Mar through 2020, pending the effective date of the bill.
Crossroads President Tracy Olcott was not able to comment due to the current litigation but said the company has received a “pretty good response” from vendors and regular gun show attendees leading up to its return.
Held five times a year, the show has been a popular forum for gun owners looking to purchase firearms, ammunition, gun-related supplies, art and memorabilia. The show is run by Utah-based company Crossroads of the West, which operates a few other gun shows in California and 10 more in neighboring states.
Locals in the neighboring jurisdictions of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have spoken out against the event for several years. But efforts to end the gun show heightened in 2018 after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting. A local grassroots organization called NeverAgainCA has frequently showed up at 22nd DAA meetings to protest the event, and urge the board of directors to hold its ground in the lawsuit.
Both Del Mar and Solana Beach have sent letters to Newsom, urging the governor to sign off on the bill.
Del Mar City Councilman Dwight Worden said he doesn’t see the bill as being “particularly legally vulnerable.”
“I respect the right of the gun owners to advocate for their position, but hey, it’s a matter of state policy whether they would like to allow the sale of guns on state property,” he said.
Schwartz, who has spoken at 22nd DAA meetings in the past on behalf of gun owners in the region, said the local opposition to gun shows is predominantly a question of culture and bias, rather than public safety.
“They were pretty crystal clear that the reason they’re banning gun shows had to do with a bias against the gun owner community,” Schwartz said. “It didn’t have to do with breaking the laws.”
Some of Crossroads’ other gun shows in California are facing a similar fate. In April, the governing board of a venue in Daly City, California, opted to ban its gun show, and the Ventura County Fairgrounds implemented new and more restrictive rules for its gun shows.
“There are several districts that are in the process of trying to restrict gun shows on state-owned property,” said Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless, who has been actively involved with NeverAgainCA. “While we are looking at reasonable reform, we’re not looking to restrict anybody’s constitutional rights.”
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.