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Proposed statewide ban on gun shows instead will target only Orange County fairgrounds

Gun enthusiasts check out sporting rifles during Crossroads of the West Gun Show in March at the OC Fair & Event Center.
Gun enthusiasts check out sporting rifles during Crossroads of the West Gun Show in March at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
(File Photo)

The scope of a bill that would have banned gun shows from operating on any state-owned property in California was recently narrowed so severely its prohibitions, if approved by the governor, will apply solely to Orange County.

State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) in January introduced Senate Bill 264 as a means of ending a decades-long tradition of county fairgrounds, which largely fall under the jurisdiction of the state as districted agricultural associations, hosting shows where the public can purchase legal firearms.

The former UCI law professor set out on a mission to end such sales at the Costa Mesa fairgrounds in 2019 when, days after explaining back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio to his children, during a family fun run at the fairgrounds, he was handed a flier for an upcoming Crossroads of the West gun show.

“I thought, ‘This is horrible — why are we doing this at the O.C. fairgrounds?’” Min recalled in an interview Friday. “I made a promise if I was elected, I would end Orange County gun shows.”

Customers wait to buy ammo during Crossroads of the West Gun Show in March at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
Customers wait in line to buy ammo during Crossroads of the West Gun Show in March at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
(File Photo)

Elected to the state Senate in November, Min researched such expos and came to see them as places where vendors had been known to sell unlicensed “ghost guns,” participated in straw sales and were occasional victims of firearm theft and expanded the bill’s footprint.

As originally proposed, SB 264 would have prohibited 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. It sought to impose misdemeanor charges on offenders.

“There’s no reason the state should be profiting off the sale of guns,” Min said Friday.

The bill moved through the requisite committees, receiving support from Democrats already in favor of stricter gun control measures. But last week, when it came before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the vision of a statewide ban was shot down.

Now, having advanced out of the state Senate Friday, the bill applies only to the 32nd Agricultural Assn., aka the Orange County Fair & Event Center.

“We didn’t have any sense whatsoever this was going to happen,” Min said, speculating that lobbying or leadership of the committee may have played a role in the recent amendment. “It’s still worth doing, so we’re going to take it, but it’s not enough.”

Costa Mesa’s O.C. fairgrounds have hosted firearms-related events through Utah-based Crossroads of the West Gun Show for the past 25 years, earning a cumulative $6.66 million as of February, according to OCFEC spokeswoman Terry Moore.

Returning in March after a pandemic hiatus, organizers have put on three weekend-long shows so far this year, including a show last weekend. Another Crossroads show being considered for Nov. 27 and 28 is pending contract approval, Moore confirmed Friday, after indicating no one from her organization could comment on the matter.

Bob Templeton, who owns Crossroads of the West, could not be reached for comment. Should SB 264 be approved, it would take effect Jan. 1, effectively ending such shows at the Costa Mesa venue.

Min said he understands OCFEC board members mostly didn’t support a ban on gun shows, if only for the revenue it brings in. He said he’d like to hold anti-gun violence family fun run at the O.C. fairgrounds in the near future, to help recoup future revenue losses, and eventually go back to the legislative drawing board.

“We’re going to have to do it again next year,” he said of a statewide gun show ban. “It’s frustrating, but we have to keep pushing.”

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