Bay Area fairgrounds joins Del Mar in banning gun shows


Directors of the Cow Palace, the state fairgrounds near San Francisco, unanimously voted Tuesday, April 16, to ban gun shows on the property after Jan. 1, following the lead set last year by the Del Mar fair board.

Crossroads of the West holds five shows a year at Cow Palace in Daley City, as it did in Del Mar until Dec. 31. The family-owned Utah company holds gun shows at dozens of locations in four western states.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors, which oversees activities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, agreed to stop the shows there until staff members can develop a written policy to ban the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition on the property. Informational shows only, without the presence of weapons, would be allowed under the proposal.

Rose Ann Sharp, leader of the local group NeverAgainCA, informed the Del Mar board of the Cow Palace decision Tuesday and thanked the members for setting a positive example.

“We’ll never know the lives you may have saved,” Sharp said, telling board members they “really set the gold standard” for what needs to be done.

The Bay Area effort was led by the San Francisco chapter of Brady United Against Gun Violence, which has been working since last spring to get the fair board to end the shows there.

“In these times of horrific gun violence, no state agency should be promoting and profiting from the proliferation of firearms and ammunition in our community,” Ruth Borenstein, a leader of the San Francisco chapter, said Tuesday. “There is overwhelming and long-standing community support for ending the Cow Palace gun shows.”

In Del Mar, the efforts of NeverAgainCA have been countered by the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee, which lobbied hard for the fairgrounds to continue the shows. Supporters say the the shows offer a place for like-minded people to gather safely, exchange ideas and learn more about their shared hobby.

Crossroads of the West filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego in January against the Del Mar Fairgrounds, challenging its suspension of the weekend event that was held there for more than 30 years. The lawsuit alleges that the board’s action violates the plaintiffs’ First and Second Amendment rights, their civil rights, the right to commercial speech, and the right to assembly.

“Regardless of how you feel about guns, we operate within compliance of the law,” Tracy Olcott, president and general manager of B&L Productions, the owner of Crossroads of the West, said in January.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) — who represents the 78th District, which includes the fairgrounds — introduced a bill in February that would prohibit the sale of guns and ammunition on the state-owned property.

Late last month, Gloria’s bill passed out of the Public Safety Committee, its first test in the Assembly, and went to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.

-- Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune