DEL MAR — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed into law a bill that will ban the sale of guns and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds beginning in 2021, the first time the Legislature has stepped in to prohibit the purchase of firearms and ammo on state-owned property.
“The community spoke and the state listened,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, in a news release. “This victory is policy and action, not thoughts and prayers — and it demonstrates that California, with leaders like Gov. Newsom, will step up when the federal government fails to act.”
Fairground officials said Friday the signing was expected and that they will adhere to the new law when it takes effect.
The new state law, Assembly Bill 893, is the latest development in an ongoing battle that’s already entered a federal court over firearms sales at Del Mar.
The appointed board of directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the fairgrounds, voted in 2018 to suspend the Crossroads of the West shows this year. However, Crossroads owner B&L Productions filed suit and, as a result, a judge issued an injunction that allowed the shows to resume in September and December.
It was unclear Friday whether Crossroads has any shows scheduled for Del Mar in 2020. Each show requires a separate contract approved by the fair board.
Crossroads President and General Manager Tracy Olcott was at one of the company’s three gun shows being held this weekend, according to a woman who answered the phone at the company headquarters in Utah, and did not immediately return a message left on her cellphone.
San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee claiming 1,300 members, called the Del Mar ban political discrimination.
“Banning a gun show on just one state-owned property, but not on all, is proof positive that this is discrimination based on political bias and has nothing to do with safety,” said gun owners Executive Director Michael A. Schwartz. “We are opposed to discrimination against a group of law-abiding citizens who are simply practicing their rights.”
The purpose of the bill was to respond to community concerns, said Nick Serrano, Gloria’s communications director.
“The whole premise behind our state’s system of District Agricultural Associations is for a group of local officials (in this case, the Del Mar Fair Board) to determine what events best match the values of the communities,” Serrano said.
The bill was strongly opposed by the gun lobby including the National Rifle Association, the Gun Owners of California and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, congratulated Gloria on getting his legislation signed.
“This bill offers tangible, real steps to keep all California residents safe by closing off another pathway for criminals to move guns from the legal market to the unregulated one,” Atkins said in a news release.
Del Mar-based NeverAgainCA has been a key force behind the effort to stop gun sales on state property.
“California should never put the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property above the lives of its citizens,” said NeverAgainCA co-founder Rose Ann Sharp. “We are thankful for leaders like Gov. Newsom and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who put the needs of their constituents ahead of special interests.”
Gloria’s legislation should be “a roadmap to other state-owned fairgrounds to take the same action to protect their communities against gun violence,” Sharp said.
“NeverAgainCA is already engaged in working with citizens where other state-owned fairgrounds allow the sale of firearms and ammunition,” she said, including venues in Orange and Ventura counties.
AB 893 was co-authored by Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas.
Gloria’s bill was one of 15 gun-safety related bills Gov. Newsom signed Friday. Among other things, the bills strengthen gun violence restraining orders, mitigate the use of untraceable firearms called “ghost guns” by criminals.
“This continues California’s leadership in terms of gun safety,” Newsom said at the ceremony.
Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Gloria’s bill Assembly Bill 2103 to tighten regulations on legally carried concealed weapons in California.
Until this year, Crossroads held five gun shows annually at Del Mar. The family-owned company has been in business 44 years and has more than 60 shows each year in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.
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