Gun shows banned at Orange County fairgrounds under new law

Gun enthusiasts check out sporting rifles at a gun show in Costa Mesa.
Gun enthusiasts check out sporting rifles in March during the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

A bill aimed at banning firearms sales on state-owned properties that was later amended to apply only to the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa has been signed into law, ending shows that have brought in $7 million at the site since 1995.

Introduced by state Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), Senate Bill 264 was among a suite of gun-safety bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before an Oct. 10 deadline. Its mandates take effect Jan. 1, making it illegal to sell guns or ammunition on property run by the OC Fair & Event Center, which constitutes the state’s 32nd District Agricultural Assn.

Min called the bill’s passage a great first step in reducing gun violence in Orange County and vowed Monday to revisit a statewide ban in the future.

He acknowledged his team was “caught off guard” in August, when SB 264 was amended by the Assembly Appropriations Committee to apply only to the O.C. fairgrounds, but said getting the state out of profiting from gun sales was a good move.

“The state should not be profiting off of what is essentially blood money,” Min said, maintaining that legal gun shows are places where under-the-table deals and the purchase of parts for unlicensed “ghost guns” have taken place. “I think that’s an important moral line to draw in the sand right now.”

Newsom supported earlier efforts that ended gun sales at the Del Mar fairgrounds in San Diego County and San Mateo County’s Cow Palace, and gun control advocates say he’s indicated his favor for a statewide ban.

The governor recently passed several gun-related measures as part of a wider initiative to advance “lifesaving polices to make our communities safer,” including Assembly Bill 1057, introduced by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), which lets members of law enforcement seize unlicensed ghost guns from those with domestic violence or gun-violence-related restraining orders.

“California has the strongest gun-safety laws in the nation, but we’re reminded every day that we can’t afford to be complacent in the fight against the gun violence epidemic in this country — we can and must do more,” Newsom said in a statement.


OC Fair & Event Center representatives declined Monday to comment on the passage of SB 264, though some officials have decried ending shows hosted by Utah-based Crossroads of the West as a move that would harm the district’s finances.

Undercover operations at gun shows are critical to California’s efforts to keep weapons out of the wrong hands, proponents say.

Oct. 25, 2019

OCFEC records indicate the district has received $7,053,868 since such shows began in 1995. That figure excludes additional revenue coming to the center from parking fees, officials clarified.

So far in 2021, three shows have raised more than $125,000. A fourth was being eyed for Thanksgiving weekend, but board members have yet to vote on finalizing those plans.

Min said Monday such revenue makes up a fraction of the center’s operating budget, given the tens of millions of dollars earned by the annual O.C. Fair. The senator said he’s secured $5 million to host a Sustainability Decathlon event that could bring fresh proceeds to the fairgrounds.

“I think there are plenty of ways to make up revenue. But, then again, that’s not my job,” he said. “My job is to make laws, and I believe a vast majority of people in the district I represent do not want gun shows at the O.C. fairgrounds.”


Cardine writes for Times Community News.