Del Mar gun shows suspended in 2019

Del Mar gun shows suspended in 2019
Jill Cooper, a Solana Beach resident and member of the anti-gun violence group NeverAgainCA, speaks with KUSI news during a break at the Sept. 11 fair board meeting in Del Mar. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

DEL MAR — The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors voted 8-1 in favor of a Contracts Committee plan at a Sept. 11 meeting, suspending any contracts with producers of gun shows beyond Dec. 31.

A new policy for future gun shows will be presented to the board no later than the December 2019 meeting — thus setting a maximum yearlong moratorium on the gun shows.

The two remaining gun shows this year will proceed without changes.

The Contracts Committee recommended that the gun shows exist solely for educational and safety training purposes, fairgrounds staff consider an age minimum, and ban the possession of guns and ammunition on state property.

Pro-gun show attendee Bill Olson argued that banning guns from the gun show is like hosting “an art show with no art.”

Although the Contracts Committee considered prohibiting the sale of firearms and ammunitions outright, the committee concluded that it cannot dictate the commercial sale of guns. The remark elicited sighs from the crowd in an otherwise calm and civil meeting.

More than 60 members of the public spoke at the meeting, with more than half speaking in support of gun shows. The board also took comments from several city council members and elected officials including Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Solana Beach City Councilwoman Judy Hegenauer. Each reiterated their council’s resolutions opposing the gun shows. The Santee City Council recently voted unanimously in support of the gun show.

Stephen Hill, a district director, voiced 78th State Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s opposition to the gun shows. The day prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Gloria sent a letter to the board of directors in support of the Contracts Committee recommendation, while also raising the possibility of drafting legislation against the gun shows.

Five elected officials, including Gloria, sent the board letters concerning the gun shows — two in favor, and three opposed. Board member Richard Valdez said the board and fairground staff need to be “mindful” of new legislation that may arise and affect any future policy recommendations.

“The legislature in California could decide they don’t want gun shows on state property,” Valdez said.

The gun shows, which have been hosted for almost 30 years at the Del Mar Fairgrounds by Crossroads of the West Gunshows, offer hundreds of tables where vendors sell guns, ammunition, knives and jewelry. No loaded firearms or magazines are currently permitted at the gun show, and guests are required to pass through a metal detector, according to the fairgrounds website.

“There’s more to gun shows than just guns,” said one attendee, who considers the gun shows to be “one of the safest” events the fairgrounds hosts.

Ryan Holmes, who teaches a youth marksmanship program, said his students feel “empowered” by gun knowledge.

By taking away the gun shows, Holmes said “we’re not teaching folks to be empowered … we’re teaching them to be afraid.”

John Moore, who is running for the 79th State Assembly District seat, said opposition to the gun shows is an “overreaction to a perceived threat.”

A few dozen attendees and speakers arrived in orange T-shirts, announcing their solidarity with NeverAgainCA, an organization that aims to end gun violence. The local organization was created in response to a Florida high school shooting in February, as well as to address the “epidemic of gun violence in our country,” founder Rose Ann Sharp said.

Sharp said she hopes the board will reconsider its recommendation that guns continue to be sold at the fairgrounds.

“(The issue is) the proliferation of guns on state-owned property,” Sharp said.

The organization submitted more than 2,000 letters to the board it had collected opposing the gun shows.

Crossroads was under scrutiny earlier this year after the Department of Justice prompted allegations against Crossroads owner Robert Templeton. Templeton is a convicted felon. His daughter Tracy Olcott, who spoke at the meeting, has been managing the gun show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the last 17 years.

Stephen Shewmaker, president of the board, expressed concern about several of the items on sale at the gun shows.

“What are we doing selling armor-piercing ammunition at a gun show?” he said.

Shewmaker, who voted in favor of the plan, said he is “done drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Valdez emphasized the inclusion of all of San Diego County in the conversation, not just the immediately surrounding communities. He concluded that the board is left with “two conflicting positions” to surmount.

“The word compromise implies that no one will be entirely happy,” he said. 

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