Del Mar fair board to discuss gun shows

Del Mar resident Penny Abell and Kensington resident Nancy Torns
Del Mar resident Penny Abell and Kensington resident Nancy Torns
(Kristina Houck)

The board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, will soon discuss the issues surrounding holding gun shows at the site.

Board members agreed to put the item on the October agenda after hearing from two members of the newly-formed group, Advocates for Gun Safety, as well as receiving a letter signed by more than two dozen representatives.

“We believe that — in the current climate of anger and fear over increasing gun violence, and the reasonable, legitimate and growing concerns of an increasing number of San Diegans about gun violence — continuing to allow the public fairgrounds facilities for gun shows is damaging to your reputation as a wholesome, family-oriented venue, and to the brand of the Del Mar Fairgrounds,” the letter states. “Being the home to the largest gun shows in the country does not serve your long-term interests.”

On July 9, Advocates for Gun Safety rallied for gun violence prevention across the street from the fairgrounds, where the two-day Crossroads of the West gun show was taking place. About two dozen people participated in the demonstration.

Del Mar resident Rose Ann Sharp, who organized the small peaceful protest, urged the board on Aug. 9 to discuss the issue at a future meeting.

“The fairgrounds are an iconic part of Del Mar,” said Sharp, who has lived in Del Mar for 20 years. “The glorification of guns does not square with the fairgrounds’ opportunity to provide wholesome family entertainment.”

The July 9 rally was the first demonstration by the group. Demonstrators wore orange shirts and held a 1,000-foot long yellow banner reading “Stop gun violence, act now” from the Yellow Tape Project, a campaign advocating for what it calls responsible guns laws in America.

Del Mar resident Wayne Dernetz, former city attorney of Del Mar and Vista, also helped organize the demonstration and spoke before the board.

“Times have changed for us all,” said Dernetz, who has lived in the community since 1973. “In recent years, the proliferation of guns in our society has brought with it increasing violence, growing threats to the life we know.”

More than 30,000 people are killed by firearms each year in the United States. In 2013, 33,636 people died from firearm injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 21,175 people committed suicide by firearm, while 11,208 people died in gun homicides.

After hearing from the speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting, board member David Watson suggested the board place the item on the October agenda, giving staff enough time to summarize the venue’s contracts with gun shows, look at the revenues and consider the issues.

“Use this as an opportunity to educate the public and the board,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of myths about what can and can’t occur at gun shows here. ... We have the strictest laws in the nation. There are background checks and there are extensive things that we do here.”