DEL MAR — Supporters of the Crossroads of the West gun show and gun safety advocates agree on at least one thing when it comes to the controversial event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds: they’re going to keep fighting.
On Saturday, people came out in droves to support and protest the show’s return to the state-owned venue after a nine-month absence, all while legislation sits on the governor’s desk that would permanently ban gun shows at the fairgrounds.
For supporters of Crossroads, about a hundred of whom came out for a morning rally prior to the show’s opening, the popular event’s return was a celebratory occasion that offered the opportunity for gun enthusiasts to meet people with similar interests and learn more about their hobby of choice.
Alpine resident John Dupree, who came to the show with his 13-year-old grandson Ayden, said he was excited to see Crossroads return because the event allows he and his grandson to see some of the new equipment that’s on the market for a sport they both are passionate about.
Dupree, an army veteran, added that although he occasionally hunts and likes having a firearm for self-defense, he loves watching competitive shooting, which is grandson excels at.
“I think if people would just kind of dial it back a little bit, they’d say ‘hey this what this culture does,'” he said. “We enjoy shooting sports.”
Despite the joy of the show’s return, attendees also expressed some worries about the future of the show. 50th District Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, and the show’s owners, B&L Productions, vowed they’d continue to fight to preserve the show.
“We all know this is not really about safety … what it is really about is the Newsom and the (Michael) Bloomberg agenda to kill the gun culture,” Chuck Michele, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, told the crowd. “They don’t respect your rights, they want to shame you into choosing not to own a gun and they want others to condemn you for choosing to own the most effective self-defense tool there is and that’s a firearm.”
“I want to ask everyone to stand and fight for freedoms … and I want to tell you, as far as litigation goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Michele added.
Gun safety advocates also came out in force to protest the show’s return.
Rose Ann Sharp, founder of Del Mar-based NeverAgainCA, whose efforts led to the initial suspension of the gun shows, said although she expects the governor will sign the legislation that ultimately ends the gun shows, there remains a lot of work to be done. She noted the group is currently focusing on spreading San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott’s safe-storage ordinance to other communities and educating medical professionals about gun violence restraining orders or”Red Flag Laws.”
She also promised the group’s continued protests as long as the gun shows were around.
Sharp also expressed frustration with the owners of the gun show for claiming only 10 percent of their sales are related to firearms and ammunition, yet not advertising about other merchandise or education and instead emphasizing big deals for purchasing large amounts of ammo.
“We’re here to say you’re (B&L) not telling the truth, you’re harming our communities and we will be here continually until it (the show) stops,” she said.
More than 75 people, among them Rep. Mike Levin, protested along Via De La Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard Saturday morning wearing orange T-shirts and carrying signs decrying gun violence and calling for action from elected officials.
Canyon Crest Academy students Daphne Porras, Zoe Sandberg-Smith, and Robbie Glatts were among those voicing their concerns.
They said they were inspired to get involve with the gun safety movement following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year.
“We see it all across the country, kids our age, our mirror image, being shot down,” said Sandberg-Smith. “If we’re the ones being effected, we should be the ones actually standing up and saying something … and I’m also absolutely floored that other people from other generations do not care as much about this.”
The students were also alarmed by how much the mass shootings were playing into their everyday lives and how desensitized kids were becoming about the issue, noting they were having conversations about ideal places to hide if a shooter was on campus.
“It shouldn’t be normal for us to be thinking about where we’d go if a person with a gun was on campus,” Porras said.
They added they’d like see more gun control measures that emphasize things like safe storage, background checks, mental health checks and trigger locks.
“We don’t want to take away their guns, we don’t want to take away their Second Amendment right,” said Glatts. “We just want to have it to be more controlled and have it be safer for students in school.”
Until this year, Crossroads held five gun shows annually at Del Mar. The company has more than 60 shows each year in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.
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