California lawmaker who once set sights on ending gun shows at O.C. fairgrounds now aims for statewide ban
As an Irvine Democrat campaigning to represent residents of California’s 37th Senate District in 2019, Dave Min set his political sights on ending the decades-long tradition of hosting gun shows at the state-owned Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
Fresh off the heels of deadly shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, and a similar attack on July 28 of that year at California’s Garlic Festival in Gilroy that left three dead and 17 wounded, Min said a “tragic cycle of gun violence” had to end.
“I don’t see freedom … when I arrive at the county fair and am given free tickets to take my family to a gun show,” the UC Irvine law professor said in a statement that August, announcing his ambition to stop the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the fairgrounds.
Now, more than a year later and securely planted in office following a Nov. 3 win over incumbent John Moorlach, Min is broadening his target, introducing a bill into the state Senate that would ban gun sales and shows on all state-owned property in California.
The move comes as statewide gun sales hit peak levels in 2020 immediately following pandemic shutdowns last spring, with as many as 110,000 new firearms purchased statewide by mid-July, according to a UC Davis survey.
If passed, Senate Bill 264 would prohibit any state officer or employee, as well as anyone licensed to use any state-held property, from allowing or contracting for the sale of any firearm or ammunition on that property.
With law enforcement gun buybacks listed as the singular exception, offenders could face misdemeanor charges, according to the text of SB 264. Because many fairgrounds in California operate as part of the state’s District Agricultural Assn., such legislation could effectively stop gun shows held on site.
Min, who was in a legislative session in Sacramento and could not be reached for comment, said in a statement after the bill’s Jan. 27 introduction on the Senate floor that SB 264 would close a “gun show loophole” that has allowed for the sales of illegal “ghost guns,” homemade firearms lacking serial numbers, straw sales and the theft of guns from unwitting vendors.
“Our county fairgrounds are supposed to be family-friendly venues long associated with wholesome events. But instead, in recent years, they’ve become most well-known for gun shows.” Min said in the statement. “That needs to change, and this bill would accomplish that change.”
Operated by the Orange County Fair & Event Center, the Costa Mesa fairgrounds have held firearms-related events through Utah-based Crossroads of the West Gun Show for the past 25 years, earning a cumulative $6.66 million from the agreement, spokeswoman Terry Moore said Monday.
Even as isolated efforts to ban such shows inched closer to Orange County, board members in an October 2019 meeting extended the fairgrounds’ contract with Crossroads by one year.
At the time, board members discussed an earlier legislative push — AB 893, undertaken by then-Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), who is now that city’s mayor — to ban gun shows at the Del Mar fairgrounds starting in 2021.
The panel further considered the possibility that a ban on the sale of firearms on state-owned property might impact the agreement, should it be moved forward.
Numerous gun show fans and exhibitors spoke in favor of continuing the tradition, in which customers arrange for gun sales with no on-site purchases being made. They attested to the numerous safety precautions put in place during such events.
“No one can walk into the show and outright purchase a firearm and take it home with them. There’s ... a whole process for turning over ownership and background checks and whatnot,” fair board Executive Director Michele Richards said at the meeting, stipulating such shows also have concessions and safety education classes.
Ultimately, the board voted 5 to 1 to renew the center’s contract with Crossroads for five 2020 shows to take place in January, March, June, August and November — a move that before the pandemic closures was anticipated to bring in $715,000 in projected revenue.
Officials confirmed Monday that only the January show took place as scheduled.
Min’s SB 264 has been referred to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Public Safety and may be acted upon at the end of the month. Meanwhile, gun control advocates are expressing their support for the senator’s proposal.
“The state of California should not be associated with the selling and promotion of firearms and ammunition,” Sandy Wilder, president of Brady Orange County, said in Min’s statement. “Let’s not forget that state-owned properties are supported by taxpayer dollars, so they also must pay for the trauma of firearm violence in our communities.”
Cardine writes for Times Community News.
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