DEL MAR — As the dialogue on gun shows in the state of California reaches a fever pitch, Utah-based company Crossroads of the West Gun Shows has sent a cease and desist letter to the founder of NeverAgainCA, a local organization that aims to end gun violence.
Since its inception in early 2018, NeverAgainCA has vocally opposed the Del Mar Fairgrounds gun show. The event has been hosted by Crossroads of the West Gun Shows for the last 28 years.
The letter — drafted by Long Beach-based law firm Michel & Associates on behalf of Crossroads — cites articles and documents posted on the NeverAgainCA website, and accuses founder Rose Ann Sharp of making “defamatory, disparaging and false statements about our clients.”
The letter predominantly contests statements regarding the gun show’s leadership and conduct. A few of the statements are related to the federal firearms convictions of Crossroads owner Robert Templeton and his son, Jeff Templeton.
Five of the seven excerpts listed in the letter were not written or produced by Sharp, but rather by a representative with the Brady Campaign, as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to Sharp, NeverAgainCA “participated in” the drafting of a letter sent to the Department of Justice and a presentation submitted to the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors, which were both referenced in the cease and desist letter.
Tracy Olcott, president of Crossroads of the West, said the company is primarily concerned with statements made regarding her brother, Jeff Templeton, and her father, Robert Templeton. Jeff Templeton is a convicted felon, and the 22nd DAA board of directors announced in May that Robert Templeton is under investigation by the Department of Justice.
Rose Ann Sharp and her husband, Ira Sharp, discovered press reports out of Utah detailing charges against the elder Templeton involving the sale and transport of guns abroad, and brought them to the attention of the board earlier this year.
Olcott said the gun show pursued the cease and desist letter because “the things (Sharp) is saying about our company and our employees, past and present, is incorrect.”
“That’s a big part, for (Sharp) to continually say (Robert Templeton) is a convicted felon,” said Olcott, when contacted by The Coast News. “My brother is. My father is not.”
Olcott said her father has a clean record, and his past charges have since been expunged. She said her father is the owner and spokesman of the company, though he is “basically retired.”
“She’s using past history as if it’s current, and that’s not OK,” Olcott said. “She’s saying that my brother, who has not worked for us for 17 years, is running the Del Mar gun show.”
“It works for her to say that because it ignites people to jump on her agenda, but it’s not true,” Olcott said.
In the document submitted to the 22nd DAA Board of Directors – which is cited by the cease and desist letter — a representative with the Brady Campaign made reference to a news article from 2015 that identified Jeff Templeton as “show director of the Crossroads of the West gun shows.” The report was written “on behalf of” eight different organizations, including NeverAgainCA.
Olcott said the gun show “(has) operated and continue(s) to operate in the realm of the law.”
Sharp spoke at the 22nd DAA board’s Nov. 14 meeting in order to inform the board of the letter.
“I hope you will share my opinion that the NRA should be condemned for their effort to silence us,” Sharp said, addressing the board.
In a phone interview with The Coast News, Sharp said that NeverAgainCA is not affiliated with the Brady Campaign. A representative with the Brady Campaign wrote an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle that was cited four times in the cease and desist letter.
“They try to brand us as being part of Brady and Moms Demand Action,” Sharp said. “ … That’s a dog whistle to their constituents.”
The Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action are organizations that condemn gun violence and aim for gun control.
Sharp said NeverAgainCA stands by its statements, and has been “very careful” in its communications.
“They have spent 30 years trying to deceive the public and this is just one more effort in that regard,” she said.
After receiving the letter from Crossroads, Sharp reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union for legal representation. David Loy, the legal director of ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, wrote a letter to Crossroads in response to the cease and desist order, calling its assertions “meritless.”
In the letter, Loy said an anti-SLAPP motion would be filed against Crossroads if the company were to pursue legal action against the organization.
When contacted by The Coast News, Loy said that Sharp could not be subject to a defamation claim “merely because NeverAgainCA posted a link to the Chronicle or the U-T.”
“There’s no actual malice,” he said, mentioning that the statements objected to in the cease and desist letter were “largely opinions.”
In mid-September, the 22nd DAA board of directors moved to set a yearlong moratorium on the gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds until a new policy governing future gun shows is developed.
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.