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Fair board wants investigation of gun show operator

Gun Show
Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, presents the 22nd DAA board with 3,100 letters calling for the gun shows to continue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Joe Tash

“Serious allegations” have been raised against the father and son who operate the popular, but polarizing Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the president of the fairgrounds board of directors said Tuesday. May 22.

“We’ve started an investigation with the Department of Justice,” said board President Steve Shewmaker.

He declined to comment further on the investigation, which comes after allegations by gun show opponents that the Crossroads show owner, Bob Templeton, and his son, Jeff Templeton, have felony convictions for federal firearms violations that could prevent them from organizing gun shows in California.

“You have hired persons convicted of violating federal gun laws to run a gun show,” Del Mar resident and NeverAgainCA member Ira Sharp told the nine appointed directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association on Tuesday.

Phone messages left for the Templetons at their business headquarters in Utah and for the Department of Justice in Sacramento were not returned Tuesday evening.

Aside from revealing the investigation, the directors of the state fairgrounds did not respond to Sharp and others who spoke during the meeting’s public comment session to ask for the suspension of the gun show contract. The contract has been scheduled for a discussion at the board’s Sept. 11 meeting.

Jeff Templeton, 51, organizes the Crossroads shows in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2002 for “possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of or person addicted to controlled substances,” court records show.

He was placed on probation in 2003, but violated the terms in 2004, when “he admitted testing positive from marijuana, hydrocodone and cocaine,” court records show.

Templeton served six months in federal custody in 2005, but has admitted to at least two other weapons and drugs violations since then, records show. In March 2006, he admitted to violating his probation by illegally possessing a controlled substance. He was sentenced to federal prison for 24 months.

His father, Robert Templeton, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1980 on 16 counts of unlawful sales of firearms, making a false statement and aiding and abetting, according to a 1994 article in the Deseret News.

Two months later, he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully selling a .38 special caliber revolver out of state. The other counts were dropped, and the senior Templeton was placed on two years’ probation.

A fairgrounds spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about whether background checks are routinely done on show contractors.

A contract the board approved in March with Crossroads states that the “Licensee agrees to abide by all Federal, State and local firearms and weapons laws.”

The Crossroads gun show has been held at Del Mar for 28 years, and there have been occasional protests in the past. It is held five times a year.

However, opponents turned up the heat after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting this year. San Diego area residents formed the group NeverAgainCA to push for tougher gun control laws.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, San Diego County Gun Owners Executive Director Michael Schwartz presented the board with two large stacks of more than 3,000 letters he said were individually signed by supporters of the gun show.

“The other side is taking out their frustrations that we all have with criminal activities,” Schwartz said. “They are taking out their frustrations on a safe, legal gun show.”

He asked the board to renew the gun show’s annual contract, and with no new restrictions.

“It’s come to our attention that you guys may renew the contract, but with extensive restrictive conditions,” Schwartz said. “That’s as good as denying it.”

He and other supporters say the show provides a place to meet like-minded people and learn about firearms safety.

NeverAgainCA members said they attended the most recent gun show held over the past weekend at the fairgrounds and saw a number of violations of the show’s policies, such as bags not checked for contents at the entrance, and guns and knives left out and available to unsupervised children.

“These shows as an activity are inherently dangerous,” said Kara Chine, a parent, high school teacher and Escondido resident.

She and others say the shows foster a climate of fear.

“We are 20 weeks into the new year, and there have been 22 shootings in our country,” Chine said.

David Patterson, a Vietnam veteran and member of San Diego Veterans For Peace, urged the board to “reject the gun lobby and the owners’ narrative.”

“In San Diego, there are at least 50 gun stores open,” Patterson said “People don’t need to go to the Del Mar gun show to buy a weapon.”

Events like the fairgrounds gun show only contribute to the proliferation of guns, he said.

Gun show supporters greatly outnumbered opponents at the fair board’s April meeting, which was moved to the fairgrounds’ offtrack betting venue to accommodate the large crowd.

The crowd was smaller Tuesday, but it filled the board’s meeting room and the opponents were in the majority.

--Phil Diehl and Dana Littlefield are reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune

Gun protest
Members of NeverAgainCA demonstrate outside the gun show in March. Union-Tribune file photo by Howard Lipin
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