Fair board to consider ban on gun shows at Del Mar Fairgrounds
Gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds could end after Dec. 31 under a proposal to be considered Tuesday by the board that runs the state-owned property.
Safety must be the top priority at the public facility, said Steven Shewmaker, president of the nine-member 22nd District Agricultural Assn. board of directors, which oversees all activities at the fairgrounds.
An incident Sunday sharpened the focus on safety at the seaside venue, when a disgruntled customer unable to get a ticket to a rap concert pulled out a handgun and began shooting. Deputies quickly returned fire, wounding the man before he hit anyone.
“It just reinforces the need for improved security,” Shewmaker said Friday of the incident.
A dramatic increase in gun violence nationwide in recent years has brought new concerns about the event. The fairgrounds installed metal detectors at the show’s entrances for the first time in July.
More extensive precautions, including a possible ban on all firearms, will be considered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at a fair board meeting that’s been moved from the usual headquarters on the fairgrounds to the nearby Surfside Race Place off-track betting facility to accommodate the expected crowd. Additional security also will be provided, Shewmaker said.
“This in effect is banning the gun show,” said Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego County Gun Owners organization and a leading advocate for the event, on Friday. “We are completely and totally opposed.”
Shewmaker and one other director, Richard Valdez, are on the board’s contracts oversight committee, which made the recommendation to the board. They are suggesting the shows cease until the district “considers the feasibility of conducting gun shows for only educational and safety training purposes and bans the possession of guns and ammunition on state property.”
He and Valdez agreed on the recommendation before Sunday’s shooting at the fairgrounds, Shewmaker said.
Crossroads of the West operates the gun shows at Del Mar and at numerous other large venues in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.
Crossroads owner Bob Templeton and his son, Jeff Templeton, both have felony convictions for federal firearms violations that prevent them from operating the shows. To avoid that, Bob Templeton has ceded control of the show to his daughter, Tracy Olcott, who has no record.
The Del Mar fair board has asked the state Department of Justice to investigate the Templeton family’s background and whether they are qualified to run the shows. So far, the department has not responded to questions about whether an investigation is underway.
An attorney for Olcott, Tiffany D. Cheuvront, said in an Aug. 31 letter to fairgrounds Chief Executive Tim Fennell that efforts to end the gun show are discriminatory.
“There is a concerted effort being made to push Crossroads out of public venues because a well-organized interest group does not agree with the beliefs of the guests who attend gun shows,” Cheuvront states. “But these gun show opponents should not be allowed to deem lawful activity ‘bad’ just because they don’t agree with it.”
Any change in the Del Mar show, which has been held five weekends a year for almost 30 years, faces strident opposition from firearms enthusiasts.
Hundreds of members of the San Diego County Gun Owners and the California Rifle and Pistol Assn. are expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting and ask for the renewal of the Crossroads contracts.
San Diego County Gun Owners has collected thousands of letters from county residents in support of the show. More than a dozen of those letters were submitted by various city council members, many of whom represent areas with high concentrations of firearms enthusiasts.
Three city councils near the fairgrounds — Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas — have passed resolutions opposing the gun shows. The Santee City Council in East County on Wednesday became the first to go on record in support of the show.
Diehl writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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