DEL MAR — A local political action committee is challenging anyone who claims laws are being broken during gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
If anyone can show proof that an assault weapon or machine gun was purchased illegally, or without the buyer being subject to a background check or 10-day waiting period, San Diego County Gun Owners will donate $10,000 to the person’s charity of choice, Michael Schwartz, the organization’s executive director, said at a July 13 press conference at Gunfire Tactical in San Diego.
The offer is also valid with evidence that someone younger than 18 was able to buy a firearm or that weapons were bought or sold in the parking lot or not through a federally licensed dealer.
“The fact is, every time the gun show comes to town, (gun show opponents) march out a bunch of tired, old misinformation that’s not true,” Schwartz said. “We decided that this time, rather than go behind them and educating the press and educating the public about the misinformation, that we wanted to get out in front of it and put our money where our mouth is.”
Schwartz said any attempt to encourage, facilitate or take part in unlawful activity to falsify proof is prohibited.
“We know that they’re not going to be successful in their efforts,” he said, adding that anyone who tries and fails to show such proof must pledge to join San Diego County Gun Owners for an educational day about the proper and safe use of firearms.
Also speaking at the event, attended by about a dozen gun-show advocates, was Sheri Graham, who described herself as “a mother, volunteer, certified range safety officer and a member of a ladies shooting league.”
“We attend the gun show as a family and have met up socially with several ladies from our group, and their mates, to explore the wide variety of items for sale,” including clothing, cleaning supplies and a safe “to ensure that my firearm is stored safely and securely,” she said.
“I am 100 percent against gun violence and fully understand that banning the gun show will not stop bad people any more than banning alcohol at the racetrack and KAABOO would end drunk driving in our town,” Graham added.
Her 12-year-old son said he loves going to the shows and enjoys shooting at the range. He also said he has never felt unsafe at school, where some of the nationwide mass shootings have taken place recently.
Schwartz said he initially planned to make the statement at the fairgrounds, where his group is a vendor and was setting up for the weekend gun show.
After talking to two staff members, he said, the state-owned facility made “demands that are impossible to meet.”
“I knew that this challenge would be interesting to the press … so I called (the fairgrounds) and sent them an email on Monday and said we were going to make this challenge,” Schwartz said. “They basically fell apart and said we couldn’t do that.
“They said we’re going to need money for insurance and security,” he added. “It became really obvious that they were trying to block us from being able to have this statement to the press. … We were told by staff that these additional demands are because the content is ‘gun stuff.’”
“Of course, it’s not true,” fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell wrote in an email. “Our media (department) was never contacted. … None of my team had been contacted.
“When we were finally contacted by Michael Schwartz, it was explained that Friday the 13th would not be available as the fairgrounds was not open to the public due to the transition from the fair to the race meet (and) setup for the weekend’s events would also be taking place,” he added.
“It was also explained that a press conference is an event and would require a contract … and given the nature of the topic, safety and security would be a consideration,” Fennell stated. “SDCGO needs to go through our sales and event department like everyone else who wishes to hold an event on the fairgrounds.”
Crossroads of the West holds five gun shows per year at the fairgrounds. The most recent, on July 14-15, included a new element — metal detectors at the entrance, which Schwartz said was an effort to “harass attendees.”
Traci Olcott, Crossroads vice president who runs the shows, said she isn’t quite sure who made the request or why but the devices weren’t a deterrent.
“At every gun show people know they have to declare their weapons at the door,” she said. “That’s nothing new for them to have to show them to security personnel.”
Olcott was scheduled to speak at the challenge announcement but said her attorney asked her not to participate in any event not directly related to the fairgrounds.
She said those who oppose her event have a right to express their opinions.
“Their voices count, too” she said. “But we need to find a way to work together to address gun violence. Gun shows don’t promote that. And people who attend them are regular people. Our hobby is just different than theirs.”
Crossroads is contracted for two more shows this year at the fairgrounds. The board of directors that governs the facility is scheduled to discuss the event and contract renewal at the Sept. 11 meeting.
Board members asked staff to provide an analysis regarding the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly implicated by the gun shows and the current state of litigation regarding gun shows in California, whether an agricultural district can impose restrictions that exceed state law requirements for gun shows, such as limiting their frequency or increasing the age limit for attendees, and if other agricultural districts and public fairgrounds have set restrictions on the events and, if so, what the results were.