Stage is set for April 24 showdown on fairgrounds gun shows

Encinitas and Solana Beach are throwing their weight behind a renewed push to ban gun shows from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, with both city councils in the past two weeks following the City of Del Mar’s lead in demanding tighter gun controls.

Going even further, Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden is drafting a legislative proposal that would prevent any state fairgrounds from hosting a gun show if its surrounding municipalities object. Worden has not announced a sponsor, but Assm. Todd Gloria and Sen. Toni Atkins have shown support for the cities’ gun-control efforts.

Advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate are gearing up for the April 24 meeting of the fairgrounds’ state-appointed board of directors, which was postponed from April 10 in order to finalize financial details on the $15 million renovation of the fairgrounds’ satellite betting facility.

A month after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the Del Mar City Council drew a line in the sand on gun-related policies, calling on federal and state officials to enact measures including a ban on “assault weapons,” high-capacity magazines and accelerated-firing mechanisms such as bump stocks; mandatory background checks; and measures to bolster school safety without arming teachers.

Encinitas followed suit on March 21, then Solana Beach a week later as more than 50 orange-clad activists from the newly formed NeverAgainCA.org flooded that city’s March 28 council meeting.

Both cities’ resolutions came with a single dissenting vote, and both acknowledged their symbolic nature. But on the gun shows in Del Mar—the next of which will be held May 19 and 20—opponents see the chance to have a tangible impact.

Despite most of the fairgrounds sitting on Del Mar land, the city has no official sway over what kinds of events are held there—a dynamic that played out last year as Del Mar and Solana Beach stood with anti-drug activists opposing a cannabis festival planned at the fairgrounds in September. While the fairgrounds board acknowledged the divided outcry—an equal outpouring called for the festival to proceed— it based its decision to cancel the Goodlife Festival’s contract on its individual liability for contradicting federal law.

Before casting his March 28 vote, Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Zito admitted to having pause that the gun show could be a free speech issue. Those concerns had been “overwhelmed,” he said, by earlier testimony that quoted fairgrounds documents that describe the gun shows as “a policy decision to be made by the fair board and their community.”

“They’ve already exercised that right with respect to cannabis, and so we know that this is a pattern that they’ve established,” Zito said.

As Encinitas Councilman Mark Muir did the week before, Solana Beach Mayor Ginger Marshall cast that city’s lone dissenting vote.

“I guess I must be the only Second Amendment person in the room, but I also do appreciate the First Amendment,” she said, pausing when someone in the audience interrupted. “It does have something to do with it. And I believe that if you don’t want to go to a gun show, don’t go to a gun show. If you don’t want to go the horse races because horses die and break their legs, don’t go to the horse races. If you don’t like the fair, don’t go to the fair.”

When the resolution passed, the orange-clad audience gave a standing ovation that lasted more than 30 seconds.

Once the din died down, Councilwoman Jewel Edson issued a parting thought. She said that she supports the Second Amendment, as well as a Supreme Court ruling that the right to bear arms is not unlimited.

“I am not a hunter, but I grew up among a family of hunters. My grandfathers and uncles all hunted, and I grew up eating the birds, elk, deer and other assorted creatures that they brought home. They were delicious,” Edson said. “They hunted those creatures with rifles, shotguns and bows, not with semi-automatic weapons.”

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