O.C. fairgrounds renews gun show for five events in 2020


Orange County gun lovers can rest easy, at least for another year.

The Crossroads of the West Gun Show — which has been the subject of public debate the past two years — will hold five shows at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa in 2020.

The Fair Board voted 5-1 on Thursday — with members Newton Pham and Barbara Bagneris absent — to renew the Fair & Event Center’s contract with the gun show, which has been held annually at the fairgrounds for 37 years.

Several board members said they were impressed by the show’s safety measures and openness to dialogue about gun rights and regulations.


“I feel safer taking my child to a gun show than I do allowing them to eat an item deep-fried at the fair,” said board member Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia. “Banning a gun show at the fairgrounds is not going to solve the safety and security issues that we have, so I think it’s irrelevant to make those one and the same.”

Board member Ashleigh Aitken voted against the contract, pointing to previous decisions by the board to ban smoking and cannabis events and sales at the fairgrounds.

“It’s just illogical and inconsistent, in my view, for us to make determinations but decide we would like to sell firearms on state-owned property when there are plenty of shops throughout Orange County and there are plenty of opportunities for people to purchase, get educated and sell back their firearms,” Aitken said.

This summer, Dave Min, a Democratic candidate for state Senate in the 37th District, called for an end to the gun show following a string of shootings in Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; and Gilroy. His Democratic opponent, Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, said at a debate Monday that she would support ending the show.

The incumbent they’re trying to unseat, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), has said he would not support ending the gun show at the fairgrounds and would instead push for stronger mental health resources in the county.

For the second year in a row, the board’s vote on the gun show drew activists advocating for Crossroads of the West. Several spoke about the show’s familial atmosphere, and many said generations of families attend.

Others emphasized the show’s strong security measures and the tight state and federal regulations governing business there. No customer can leave the fairgrounds with a new gun, they said.

“We happily expose ourselves to them,” said Michelle Watson of Carol Watson’s Orange Coast Auctions. “We’re hiding nothing, and we follow everything we’re supposed to do.”

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.