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Area state Senate candidate calls for end to gun shows at O.C. fairgrounds

An NRA banner on display near the entrance of the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the OC Fair and Event Center in 2017.
An NRA banner is displayed near the entrance of the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa in October 2017.
(File Photo)

In the wake of three mass shootings around the country, the issue of gun shows at the Orange County fairgrounds has again caught wind, thanks to an area candidate for state Senate.

Dave Min, a Democrat from Irvine who is running in the 2020 election for the 37th District seat currently held by John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), released a statement Tuesday calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to end gun shows at the state-funded fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

Min cited last weekend’s deadly shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, which followed one a week earlier in Gilroy.

“The tragic cycle of gun violence that continued this past weekend has to end,” Min said in his statement. “I don’t see freedom when my children come home scared after active shooter drills at school, or when I arrive at the county fair and am given free tickets to take my family to a gun show. Instead, I see dollar signs valued over the lives of the innocent.”

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The governor’s office this week did not respond specifically to questions about the Crossroads of the West Gun Show, which is held multiple times a year at the OC Fair & Event Center and is scheduled to return next weekend. Crossroads is the largest gun show in California.

Newsom did write a letter last year as lieutenant governor supporting a ban on gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County. In the letter, he cited his earlier efforts as mayor of San Francisco to end gun shows in neighboring Daly City.

“Permitting the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property only perpetuates America’s gun culture,” Newsom wrote in the letter, dated April 23, 2018. “If California continues to permit the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property, we are sending a signal that we value the sale of firearms above the lives of Americans.”

The San Diego County Fair board suspended the Crossroads show in September, but Crossroads sued and a federal judge in June ordered the fair to allow it to return.

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State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), whose 74th District includes Costa Mesa, did not comment specifically this week about the Orange County gun shows. But she did vote in April as a member of the Appropriations Committee to pass to the Assembly floor a bill to ban gun and ammunition sales at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Petrie-Norris noted that California has the country’s strictest gun control laws and advocated for turning the focus to the national level. She has co-authored a resolution urging Congress to require background checks for all firearms sales.

“Like moms all across the country, my heart breaks and my chest seizes in fear every time I hear about a mass shooting, and every time, I think about the families destroyed by senseless gun violence,” she said in a statement. “I am unequivocally committed to fixing our gun laws here in California and at the federal level.”

Moorlach said he does not support the call to end gun shows at the fairgrounds. Instead, he steered the conversation toward his efforts to increase mental health resources as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health.

“I don’t see pulling guns away from everybody or shutting down gun shows is the answer now,” said Moorlach, who has a 93% approval rating from the National Rifle Assn., according to votesmart.org. “Shutting down a gun show …. doesn’t solve what’s really going on. It’s sort of a reaction.”

Min’s Facebook post of his news release prompted an eruption of comments, including one from Orange County Fair Board member Ashleigh Aitken, who said she has long questioned having gun shows at the fairgrounds.

“I don’t disagree with your recent efforts or your position. I just wish you wouldn’t attack a group of Democratic volunteers on the Fair Board to do it,” Aitken wrote. “We are all on the same team.”

Fairgrounds spokeswoman Terry Moore said Friday that the board hasn’t discussed the gun shows since it approved contracts with Crossroads in October.

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“Crossroads of the West is currently a promoter in good standing and has been holding shows at OC Fair & Event Center for more than 30 years,” Moore wrote in an email.

This isn’t the first time the fairgrounds’ gun shows have come under attack from gun control advocates.

A Crossroads of the West show in 2017 took place less than a week after the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that left 59 people dead and hundreds wounded. Some people expressed concern that the show’s timing was insensitive.

“There’s no direct connection to what we’re doing and what happened in Las Vegas, although many people would like to make that linkage,” Crossroads of the West founder Bob Templeton told the Daily Pilot at the time.

Last year, Del Mar Fairgrounds Chief Executive Tim Fennell sent a letter to the state requesting an investigation about allegations that Templeton and his son Jeff had felony convictions for federal firearms violations that could prevent them from organizing gun shows in California, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Bob Templeton told the Orange County Fair Board that his daughter, Tracy Olcott, runs the gun shows.

The Fair Board in May last year postponed voting on rental contracts for three Crossroads gun shows for a month before approving them. The contracts had a combined value of about $278,000.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, a Democrat who also is running for the 37th Senate District seat, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

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She did lash out against Moorlach’s position on gun control in a tweet on Sunday. A Twitter user commented, “Maybe we could have a moratorium on gun shows at the fairgrounds? Especially in light of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival?”

Foley responded: “The state and the Fair Board control the fairgrounds property, not the City Council. We don’t have authority over the site, only the roads and sidewalks that surround it.”

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Updates:
7:06 PM, Aug. 09, 2019: This article was originally published at 4:32 p.m. Aug. 9 and was later updated with additional comments.

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