DEL MAR – After years of debate over whether gun shows should be held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, state Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) introduced a bill on Feb. 22 that seeks to ban the sale of guns and ammunition on the state-owned property.
Gloria said the bill intends to clarify “where the people of California stand when it comes to gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.”
If passed, Assembly Bill 893 would go into effect by January 1, 2021.
Utah-based Crossroads of the West Gun Shows has been hosting a gun show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds five times a year for 30 years, with each event drawing thousands of people from across the county to shop for guns, ammunition and gun-related products.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors, a Governor-appointed body which operates the Fairgrounds, opted in September to set a year-long moratorium on the gun shows until they could develop a policy regulating future gun shows.
An ad-hoc committee of directors has been meeting with stakeholders to consider the possibility of holding the event solely for educational purposes – they will be proposing a new policy no later than December of 2019.
In response to the moratorium, Crossroads and several of its frequent vendors filed a lawsuit against the 22nd DAA Board in January, on the grounds that the move violated its first amendment rights to free speech and assembly, and its rights to equal protection and due process.
In September, Gloria voiced his support for “limiting or eliminating” the gun shows, expressing his willingness to pursue legislation “should the 22nd DAA Board be unable to take meaningful action.”
“Fundamentally I believe that it is wrong for the state of California to profit or to benefit from the sale of firearms or ammunition,” Gloria said at a Feb. 22 press conference. “Without question I acknowledge that gun ownership is a constitutional right in the United States, and I know that there are plenty of responsible gun owners out there. However, the fact remains that widespread accessibility to these deadly weapons produces a public safety threat that we must address.”
Gloria referenced the wave of gun violence that has traversed the country, pointing out a recent local incident in which a gunman fired multiple shots into a restaurant in Hillcrest.
“What is evident to me is it is undeniable the link between the amount of gun violence we see today and the number of guns in our communities,” he said.
If the bill passes through the assembly and senate, it will come in front of Governor Gavin Newsom for a final signature of approval. Newsom has vocally opposed the Del Mar gun show, as well as other gun shows in the state.
The introduction of AB 893 follows close behind Senate Bill 281, a bill introduced in mid-February that would ban the sale of firearms and ammunitions at a Bay Area venue called the Cow Palace, where Crossroads also hosts gun shows.
North County communities have expressed their opposition to the event for the years, with neighboring Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas passing resolutions against it.
Del Mar was at the helm of city-level efforts to oppose the shows – the Fairgrounds is located within the city’s jurisdiction. Councilman Dwight Worden said Del Mar’s City Council is “unanimously on the same page with this and very much behind the effort to discontinue the sale of guns and ammo” at the Fairgrounds.
“For decades in Del Mar, we felt that the promotion and glorification of guns at the gun show are not consistent with our community values,” Worden said.
NeverAgainCA, an anti-gun violence activist group based in Del Mar, has been at the forefront of local efforts to ban the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property. At the conference, NeverAgainCA founder Rose Ann Sharp said the group will continue seeking similar legislation at every state-owned fairground.
“This legislation might seem small in the face of this national health epidemic,” Sharp said. “Yet the importance of this legislation is large. Because it lays down the marker for all elected officials: it’s time to listen to their communities.”
In a phone call with The Coast News, Crossroads President Tracy Olcott said that those with legislative authority in the state are “not speaking for the state of California, they’re speaking for themselves or the minority of people who are vocal about it.”
“We have a thirty year history at the Fairgrounds, and the uptick in violence in recent years has nothing to do with the gun shows,” Olcott said. “…if that was the case, the uptick would have been 30 years ago. Gun shows have nothing to do with gun violence.”
When asked whether Crossroads would consider holding an event for educational purposes, Olcott said “that’s not a gun show.”
“We’ll always continue to be in favor of the educational aspect of it, but that’s not what people go to the gun shows for,” she said.
Olcott said the company will continue to look for venue options in San Diego pending the outcome of its lawsuit against the 22nd DAA Board.
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.