The patriarch of the family that operates the Del Mar gun show said Wednesday, May 23, he has avoided legal conflicts over his past felony firearms conviction by ceding responsibility for the event to his daughter, Tracy Olcott.
“It’s something that happened almost 40 years ago,” said Bob Templeton, 79, president of Crossroads of the West Gun Shows. “I have never signed the contracts because of my prior conviction.”
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. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully selling a .38 special caliber revolver out of state. The other counts were dropped.
Questions about Templeton’s background arose at the monthly board meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association on May 22, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds.
Despite Templeton’s ready acknowledgement of the conviction, it was news to the Del Mar fair board.
“The board members were completely taken by surprise,” fair board President Stephen Shewmaker said Wednesday, May 23.
The board learned of the past conviction in a letter from Del Mar resident Ira Sharp, Shewmaker said. Sharp and his wife, Rose Ann, are active in the NeverAgainCA group working to stop gun violence. The group has picketed outside the last two gun shows, and has asked city councils across the county to support a ban on the shows.
“I said, ‘we need to investigate this,’” Shewmaker said of the allegations. “There’s a whole lot we want to know about that situation.”
As a result, Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell sent a letter Monday, May 21, to the state Department of Justice in Sacramento requesting an investigation of whether the gun show should have been granted the “certificate of eligibility license” required to operate the show.
The certificate verifies that the Department of Justice has checked its records and determined that the applicant is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms, according to the DOJ website. It is required of all prospective licensed firearms dealers.
It’s unclear whether as president of the company Templeton’s felony firearms conviction might prevent another officer of the company from holding the certificate, signing contracts and overseeing the gun shows.
The Department of Justice did not respond to call and emails seeking comment on the matter.
Crossroads has five gun shows annually at Del Mar, and a total of more than 60 shows each year across Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. The largest California show is in Costa Mesa, and the largest of them all is in Phoenix.
The Crossroads shows generate about $500,000 in annual gross revenue and between $350,000 and $400,000 in net revenue for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, said public information officer Annie Pierce. The income includes proceeds from parking fees, food and beverage sales, and space rentals.
Of about 300 events held annually at the fairgrounds, the gun shows are in the top 20 percent for revenue, she said. The biggest single event is the month-long San Diego County Fair that begins June 1.
One of Templeton’s sons, Jeff Templeton, has not been involved with the family’s gun shows since about 2004 because of his criminal convictions, the family said Wednesday, May 23.
Jeff Templeton, 51, 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.”
The son served six months in federal custody in 2005, but has admitted to at least two other weapons and drugs violations, and served additional time in custody, records show.
Another son, Robert J. Templeton, has no convictions and has helped organize the shows for years, primarily the ones in Ventura and at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the family said.
“It’s all operated now by my two kids (Robert J. Templeton and Tracy Olcott)” said the father, Robert R. (Bob) Templeton.
He continues to serve in what is largely an advisory role and as a media representative for the company, he said.
The only time his conviction has turned up previously was in 1994, the senior Templeton said. The Utah governor had appointed him to a task force looking at gun-control measures, and he resigned when his firearms conviction came to light.
Templeton started the Crossroads business in 1975 with his wife, Lynn. They formed a family corporation, B&L Productions (for Bob and Lynn) in 1989 to operate the business. The Better Business Bureau lists the B&L officers as Bob Templeton, president; Tracy Olcott, vice president; Lynn Templeton, treasurer; and Rob Templeton, office manager.
“All of the contracts and the certificate of eligibility are in my name and have been for at least 15 years,” Olcott, the daughter, said Wednesday, May 23.
She’s attended every gun show at Del Mar since about 2001 and most of the Crossroads shows in Southern California for the past 20 years, she said.
It’s not surprising to see the shows attracting new attention after the surprising increase this year in school shootings across the nation, she said. However, like other firearms enthusiasts, she said the gun-show opponents are misdirecting their efforts.
“We are all against gun violence,” Olcott said. “We support responsible gun ownership … We want to make sure everything is done in compliance with the law.”
The fair board decided at its April meeting to place the gun show contract on its agenda in September. Hundreds of people attended the April meeting to address the board on the subject, taking up hours of the board’s public comment session. More than 70 percent of the speakers were in favor of the show. However, like at the April 22 meeting, the matter was not on the agenda so the board could not respond to the comments.
The city councils of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have all voted to ask the fair board to end the gun shows.
“The board is very sensitive to what’s going on in the community,” Shewmaker said. “We feel bad that because it’s not on the agenda, that we have to just sit there and listen. But we have a process we have to follow.”
The board normally meets once a month, but Shewmaker said he may call a special separate meeting in September to discuss the gun show contract.
In the past, the gun show contracts have been renewed annually, and approved by the fairgrounds CEO without additional review by the board.
However, Shewmaker said, the board adopted a new policy in March requiring any potentially controversial contract to be reviewed by the board. That change came as the result of a proposed cannabis festival, which was initially approved for the fairgrounds and later overturned by the board.
The board also may consider other changes for the gun show, such as age limits for admission, he said.
Minors are admitted to the show when accompanied by an adult, and children 12 and younger are allowed in free with a parent or guardian.
Age restrictions would do more harm than good, Orcott said May 23.
“We’ve always run it as a family event,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to be educated with a supervising adult.”
Children only become more curious about things that are withheld from them, and that makes guns more dangerous, she said.
Demonstrators have picketed outside gun shows across the country in recent months, including the Cow Palace show in April.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, recently proposed legislation that would ban the sales of guns or ammunition at the Cow Palace, beginning in 2020.
State Assembly members Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, both San Diego Democrats, introduced legislation in March to strengthen California gun laws.
--Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune