Gun shows to stay at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Gun shows still have a future at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, discussed the Crossroads of the West Gun Show and heard from both supporters and opponents at the Nov. 15 board meeting.

About two dozen people spoke before the board to plead their stance on gun shows.

Del Mar resident Rose Ann Sharp was among a half-dozen speakers who urged the board to stop allowing gun shows to be held at the fairgrounds. She and other supporters in the audience, including newly re-elected Del Mar Mayor Sherryl Parks and Councilman Dwight Worden, wore orange shirts in solidarity.

“You have demonstrated a willingness to work with the communities over many sensitive and environmental issues such as noise, parking, traffic,” Sharp said. “We hope the board can accomplish good results for all of San Diego on this critical issue of gun shows.”

A member of Advocates for Gun Safety, Sharp helped found the group and organize two peaceful protests on July 9 and again on Oct. 2 across the street from the fairgrounds. Both rallies coincided with Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the facility.

Del Mar resident Wayne Dernetz, former city attorney of Del Mar and Vista, also helped organize the demonstrations and spoke before the board.

“You have just heard from a few members of Advocates for Gun Safety who believe, as I do, that allowing gun shows to continue at the fairgrounds is antithetical to your mission to provide wholesome, family-oriented recreational, educational and entertainment activities for our community,” Dernetz said.

He provided board members with a binder of information to consider, including a memorandum from the California Department of Food and Agriculture dated May 2, 2000 and addressed to all fairs.

“Whether or not a fair rents out their facilities for gun shows is a policy decision to be made by the fair board and their community,” the letter states.

“As board of directors for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, you have the sole authority to decide, with your community, whether to continue gun shows on fairgrounds property,” Dernetz said.

Although there is a growing group of area residents seeking to stop gun shows at the fairgrounds, more people spoke in favor of the events during the board meeting.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show has been held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for 26 years.

Owner Bob Templeton said that every person who purchases a firearm during the gun show at the fairgrounds must go through a background check.

“The activities at the gun show are in compliance with all applicable laws,” Templeton said. “There’s nothing that goes on here that law enforcement doesn’t closely supervise.”

As a vendor, Michael Schwartz, who is also executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, said he has attended all five gun shows every year for the past nine years.

“I’ve seen law-abiding citizens coming in for education and coming in to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Schwartz said.

In a letter to the board, Assemblyman Brian Jones also asked the board to continue to allow the gun show at the fairgrounds.

“While the legislature continues to chip away at Second Amendment rights in this state, I would be grateful to see a successful and safe event continue to be held at the fairgrounds for the law-abiding gun owners of San Diego County that wish to attend,” Jones said.

The subject was listed as an information item, not an action item, on the board’s agenda.

Pat Kerins, chief of security for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, said he routinely inspects the Crossroads of the West Gun Show and regularly communicates with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department regarding its compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, as well as the security plan required by the California Department of Justice. He provided the board with a copy of a report he prepared in 1999, detailing gun show regulations, security and sales.

According to the staff report, Templeton produces 52 gun shows every year in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

Approximately 13 percent of the 265 vendors that participate in the show sell firearms. No assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are sold or displayed at the show.

“In my considered opinion, as chief of security for the 22nd DAA for the last 17 years, the Crossroads of the West Gun Show are in compliance with all the local, state and federal regulatory statues and have operated without any violations of those laws,” Kerins said in his report to the board. “Due to the strict California gun show regulations, there are no so-called loopholes that you so often hear about in the media.”

The Sheriff's Department, which regulates the gun shows, advised Kerins that “all the applicable rules, regulations and laws are as applicable today as they were in 1999,” the report states.

“I guarantee you there are no guns being bought and being walked off,” Sheriff's Detective Jaime Rodriguez, who supervises the deputies assigned to the gun show, said at the meeting. “They are all being run through DOJ’s (U.S. Department of Justice) 10-day waiting period. There are no loopholes.”

After hearing from members of Advocates for Gun Safety, as well as receiving a letter signed by more than two dozen representatives, board member David Watson in August suggested the board place the item on a future agenda, giving staff enough time to summarize the contracts, look at the revenues and consider the issues surrounding gun shows.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds receives about $20,000 in rent for each of the five gun shows held annually at the facility. Revenues for the show totaled more than $500,000 for all five shows last year.

After hearing from speakers and reviewing the staff report, Watson said he appreciated the opportunity to educate board members and the public on what is allowed at gun shows.

“There continues to be a great deal of misunderstanding about how heavily regulated gun shows are in California,” Watson said. “I thought it would be useful for everyone to hear and appreciate how it works and what we do.”

Although Watson requested that the issue by placed on the agenda, he and no other board members asked for it to be brought back to the board as an action item. Board member Lee Haydu, however, said that she personally believes children should not attend gun shows.

“I do not think of this as a family event,” said Haydu, adding that she recently toured a gun show.

“I don’t want to take away people’s rights to bear arms,” she said. “But I do not feel children should be a part of a gun show.”

Tim Fennell, CEO and general manager of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, noted that unattended minors are not allowed at the show. Attendees must be an adult. Children must be accompanied by a parent or a guardian.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show is set to return to the fairgrounds in December.

The show contracts on a year-to-year basis with the fairgrounds. Five dates have already been scheduled through 2017.

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