Crossroads of the West, which has held gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for nearly 30 years, will hold its last event there this weekend.
Beginning in January, the shows will be suspended for up to one year while fairgrounds administrators work out a policy to ban the sales of firearms and ammunition on the state-owned property.
The change comes after a string of horrific mass shootings across the nation, and in response to a small but persistent local group’s efforts to find ways to reduce gun violence.
“This last Del Mar gun show is a first step to end the glorification, proliferation and sale of guns and ammunition into our neighborhoods,” said Rose Ann Sharp, a Del Mar resident and founder of the group NeverAgainCA, by email Wednesday.
Supporters of the gun show say the efforts to end it are governed by fear and not logic, and have threatened legal action against the fair board. They say the events give like-minded people a place to gather safely, learn more and share their enthusiasm for firearms.
“Getting rid of gun shows is not going to change this country,” said Tracy Olcott, Crossroads president and general manager. “These are not the kind of people who perpetuate gun violence.”
The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds, voted in September to suspend the shows beginning in January for up to one year, while a new policy is developed for hosting the events.
Gun-related informational and educational activities, without firearms, could continue at the location under the proposed policy.
Operators of the family-run firearms festival say that any ban on weapons effectively ends gun shows at the fairgrounds. They hope to find a new venue in San Diego County.
“We won’t go away,” Olcott said Tuesday. “We’re looking for another place in the Del Mar area.”
Olcott and other supporters of the show have said a firearms ban violates their Constitutional rights under the 1st and 2nd Amendments.
“We do have a lawsuit in motion,” Olcott said Tuesday. “It’s going to be filed soon.”
Olcott’s father, Bob Templeton, started the Crossroads company 42 years ago. It now holds more than 80 gun shows in four western states each year.
Thousands of people attend each show in Del Mar. The events are hugely popular among firearms enthusiasts.
Members of the political action group San Diego County Gun Owners have advocated loudly for continuing the shows. Michael Schwartz, president of the owners group, said in an email Wednesday that the suspension is “harassment of law-abiding gun owners.”
“The Agricultural Board’s ban really has nothing to do with safety or crime prevention and everything to do with virtue signalling and bigotry,” Schwartz said. “We look forward to supporting Crossroads of the West once they settle on a new location.”
Opposition to the Del Mar shows has surfaced occasionally over the years, but grew strong with the formation of the locally based group NeverAgainCA after the mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school in February.
At the urging of NeverAgainCA, city councils in Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach approved resolutions calling for the fair board to end the gun shows at the fairgrounds. While each of the cities also called for the state and federal governments to do more to regulate firearms and prevent gun violence, it’s unclear how the cities might react should Crossroads try to move into their jurisdiction.
Members of the group have raised a number of issues about the safety and legality of the shows. For one, Templeton, and his son, Jeff Templeton, have past felony convictions for federal firearms violations that prevent them from operating gun shows.
Bob Templeton remains an owner of Crossroads and occasionally speaks publicly in support of the events. He has said repeatedly that the shows are legal because his daughter signs the contracts, holds the permits and manages the activities.
The fair board sent a letter to the state Department of Justice in May requesting an investigation of Templeton. However, the department has not acknowledged any activity related to that request.
Members of NeverAgainCA demonstrated outside each of the Del Mar shows beginning February.
Sharp, the group’s leader, said members now will turn their efforts to other communities with public facilities that host the events.
“We gave our community proof that they could take on the powerful gun manufacturers and NRA affiliates and prevail,” Sharp said. “We have inspired communities throughout the state to do the same.”
Five other California fairgrounds, including Ventura and Orange counties, also host gun shows on public property, Sharp said.
The Orange County Fair Board delayed the renewal of its Crossroads shows over the summer to look into questions about the operators, then proceeded to hold the events as usual.
Statistics related to guns in the United States can be difficult to find, and they vary according to the sources.
One reason for that is the federal Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1968, which make it illegal for the federal or state governments to keep a database that ties specific guns to their owners.
Estimates for gun ownership are based on other records such as sales, permits and even telephone surveys.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has issued 1,957 current concealed weapons permits, for example. Yet each of those permits could be valid for as many as three firearms, and some permits are valid for two years, some for three or for four years, depending on the activities of the holder.
Gun sales rise and fall over the years for a number of reasons, in part because of changing laws and the political climate.
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
The state requires background checks, a 10-day waiting period before taking possession of purchased firearms, and since 2015 has required all buyers to pay a $25 fee and pass a written test to obtain a Firearms Safety Certificate.
Firearms sales records are kept by the Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms, which has a few general statistics on its website.
Overall gun sales in the state climbed steadily during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidential administration, from 315,000 in 2008 to the all-time high of more than 1.3 million firearms in 2016. Then in 2017 total sales dropped to 880,000.
Some people say firearms sales increase during a Democratic presidential administration because of a widespread belief that Democrats will restrict gun rights and make firearms more difficult to obtain. Sales information tends to support that theory.
New firearms legislation also affects sales, usually in a negative way.
California passed a law effective in 2000 limiting handgun purchases to no more than one per individual every 30 days. After that, handgun sales declined from 245,000 in 1999 to 202,000 in 2000, state records show.
Since then handgun sales in California slowly increased to surpass 300,000 for the first time in 2012 and reached 573,000 in 2016.
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