Gun control proponents seek to bar gun shows from California fairground

Gun control proponents seek to bar gun shows from California fairground

The Crossroads of the West gun show has operated out of Del Mar for 25 years, but may have to find other digs if local activists get their way. (Photo: Crossroads of the West)

Local gun control supporters are targeting the Del Mar Fairgrounds for its longstanding policy of allowing gun shows at the venue.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the county-owned fairgrounds, will discuss the matter in its upcoming October agenda, The Coast News reported.

The matter came to the attention of the fair board after a letter signed by 26 local residents, who collectively term themselves the Advocates for Gun Safety, was presented to the panel.

“We believe it is in your best interest as well as the public’s to discontinue allowing the public fairgrounds facilities to be used for the exhibition of guns and firearms,” said group member Wayne Dernetz. “This is your tobacco-industry moment. You will have to choose whether to do what is right for the majority of Americans or continue to serve the interests of the gun industry.”

The group, which formed as the Coastal Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence in July before finalizing its current name, contains members from such national gun groups as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, the Del Mar Times reported. Last month they picketed a gun show at the fairgrounds and promise to keep it up in the future.

“We’re going to be at every gun show,” said organizer Rose Ann Sharp at last month’s protest. “They’re going to keep hearing our message.”

The fairgrounds hold about four gun shows per year, charging $20,000 rent off each one alone in addition to other revenue. Longtime vendor, the Crossroads of the West gun show, is one of the largest in the country and in recent months have expected record crowds. They have operated out of Del Mar for 25 years.

This is not the first time the fair board has weighed the issue of canceling gun shows. When the topic came up in 2013, similarly proposed by a small group of anti-gun crusaders, speakers 2-1 in favor of keeping the shows spoke to the board, leaving members sour on the idea of changing their policy. At the time, Board President Adam Day said the shows brought the fairgrounds a net profit of $324,000 annually and met all state and local laws.

Elsewhere, local advocates have been more successful in convincing public fairgrounds in Nashville and Saratoga Springs, New York, to distance themselves from long established gun show vendors.

As for the prospect of Del Mar doing the same, board member David Watson cautioned it is an issue that needs to be evaluated rationally.

“I think there’s a lot of myths about what can and can’t occur at gun shows here,” Watson told the Del Mar Times. “We have the strictest laws in the nation. There are background checks and there are extensive things that we do here.”