Gun show opponents want more safeguards at fairgrounds

Adele Josepho of Solana Beach was one of about 80 people from NeverAgainCA who protested outside the Crossroads of the West gun show at Del Mar in 2018.
(Howard Lipin)

Gun show opponents are asking for increased safety precautions when the Crossroads of the West event returns to the Del Mar Fairgrounds this weekend.

“Take steps that will give the public confidence that you are protecting us,” said Rose Ann Sharp of NeverAgainCA in a presentation this week to the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors.

The board that runs the fairgrounds voted in 2018 to suspend the gun shows this year. However, the event was reinstated in September after a judge issued a temporary injunction requested by the show operator B&L Productions. The events are expected to continue through 2020 until a state law passed this year takes effect in 2021 to outlaw the sale of firearms and ammunition at the fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds spokeswoman Annie Pierce said Wednesday that the board did not respond to Sharp’s request, made during public comments at Tuesday’s meeting, and that there were no new developments in the B&L lawsuit against the fairgrounds.

“We are committed to ensuring that every event at the fairgrounds is safe and secure,” Pierce said.

Crossroads of the West held the weekend firearms bazaar at Del Mar five times annually for more than 30 years until Jan. 1. The company holds more than 60 gun shows annually in four Western states.

The gun show attracts thousands of people each weekend and has been one of the fairgrounds’ most popular events, outside of the annual horse races and the San Diego County Fair.

Crossroads found itself in the cross-hairs of NeverAgainCA soon after the mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school on Feb. 14, 2018. Since then, the ever-increasing numbers of shootings have focused attention on the national problem of gun violence and easy access to firearms, and NeverAgainCA has kept up the pressure.

The group frequently points to the background of Crossroads owner Bob Templeton and his son Jeff Templeton, who both have past felony firearms convictions. In recent years, the shows have been run by Templeton’s daughter, Tracy Olcott, who has a clean record.

Also, San Diego jeweler Leo Hamel, an advisory board member of the San Diego County Gun Owners political action committee, a staunch supporter of the Crossroads shows. Hamel was indicted on federal charges this year after FBI agents found more than 200 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition at his home and jewelry store. Hamel and a Sheriff’s Department lieutenant, along with a former sheriff’s captain and two others were charged with multiple criminal counts stemming from illegal firearms sales from 2013 through this year.

The county gun owners group announced Wednesday it will host a rally and news conference at the fairgrounds when the gun show opens on Saturday.

“Because of the pending litigation in federal court, every gun show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds could potentially be the last gun show at Del Mar,” said Michael Schwartz, executive director of the group. “We’re inviting all Second Amendment advocates to join us ... in support of the gun show.”

NeverAgainCA also asked the fairgrounds this week to make public a list of all the vendors at the Crossroads show to see if any have been investigated for illegal activities. Sharp said Wednesday that the fairgrounds attorney has agreed to provide the information.

Sharp also requested details of the fairgrounds’ requirements for security employees at the gun shows, registration desk workers, and security for packages entering and leaving the event.

“Do you have training standards?” Sharp asked. “Do you do background checks?

“Just like you check the rides at the Del Mar Fair every day for potential risk of injury or death, you need to do the same for your first line of defense at the gun show,” Sharp said.

The show features dozens of vendors selling guns, ammunition, hunting gear, tactical gear, knives, targets, jewelry, memorabilia and more.

Legislation to end gun sales at the county-owned Cow Palace near San Francisco was vetoed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown. However, the venue’s board of directors voted in November to ban the shows in response to requests from the local community.

“The Cow Palace Board of Directors is taking these mass shootings seriously, and not caving to pressure from the gun lobby,” according to a joint statement released by Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Phil Ting, both D-San Francisco, last month. “We must continue to push for stricter gun laws at the local, state, and national level.”

Gun-safety advocates also are working to end the shows at state fairgrounds in Orange and Ventura counties.

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