Gun show supporters, protesters gather at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Gun show protesters gathered in front of the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Dec. 14.
(Luke Harold)

The Crossroads of the West gun show returned to the Del Mar Fairgrounds Dec. 14-15, with supporters and opponents each holding a rally at the state-owned venue.

It was the first gun show held at the fairgrounds since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to outlaw gun and ammunition sales at the state-owned fairgrounds starting in 2021. The 22nd District Agricultural Association’s board of directors, which oversees the fairgrounds, is also in the middle of a legal battle over their attempt to ban gun shows from the property. B&L Productions, which holds the Crossroads of the West events, filed the lawsuit and received an injunction that allowed the gun shows to continue.

“We believe that the law will be upheld, and we believe that to have held a gun show on the memorial of Sandy Hook is incredibly insensitive,” said Rose Ann Sharp, founder of grassroots advocacy group NeverAgainCA, referring to the Dec. 14 anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

She and about 40 gun show opponents gathered at the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and Via de la Valle on Saturday morning, Dec. 14.

Twenty children and six staff members at Sandy Hook were killed by a gunman. It was one of many school shootings in recent years that spurred a generation of youth activism.

Robbie Glatts, a local high school student, said she doesn’t feel safe at school anymore. She said the pushback she’s received from attending rallies for stricter gun control include a driver who mimed shooting at the group while passing by on Saturday morning.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” Glatts said. “The fact that guns are so easily accessible, and the fact that my life is threatened for using my voice. That’s why I keep doing it though, because nobody else should feel that way.”

She attended the NeverAgainCA rally Saturday morning with her mother, Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless.

“I’m here to help put an end to the glorification and proliferation of guns in our communities,” Harless said. “They’re way too accessible and we’ve seen an acceleration of gun violence over many years, most notably with Sandy Hook and it just seems to get worse and worse and worse. I want my constituency and my daughter to feel safe.”

Crossroads of the West gun shows have been held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for decades, as well as Utah, Arizona and Nevada, according to the event’s website. It’s scheduled to return to Del Mar on March 14-15.

Supporters of the gun show held a news conference Dec. 14.
(San Diego County Gun Owners)

Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, spoke during a news conference at the show’s entrance. He said in a statement issued beforehand that it’s “crucial that we gather to speak out and defend the fundamental right to self defense for law-abiding citizens, oppose an extremist gun-control agenda, and stand strong in support of the Second Amendment.”

In an interview, Schwartz said advocates for stricter gun control are wrong to conflate gun crimes with California’s lawfully operating gun shows, which adhere to regulations including federal background checks and a mandatory 10-day waiting period to obtain a firearm.

As the lawsuit over gun shows at the fairgrounds moves forward, Schwartz said San Diego County Gun Owners will be supporting candidates at the county and city level who are more amenable to local gun owners.

“We’re going to be focused in 2020 on getting the right people elected,” he said.

Tracy Olcott, president of Crossroads of the West, reiterated the safety measures in place. She said via email that California Department of Justice approval is required to promote the gun shows, and vendors are screened by the California Department of Justice and San Diego sheriff.

“We have been safely promoting gun shows in Del Mar for over 30 years,” she said. “We feel strongly that gun shows provide a forum for safe, law abiding citizens to gather and discuss Second Amendment issues. We stand in unity against all gun violence, but targeting gun shows as a source is the wrong approach.”