Settlement expected in gun show lawsuit

People buy tickets to the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in December.
People buy tickets to the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in December.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune

Judge denies request to extend deadline

The owners of Crossroads of the West Gun Show will request a court injunction to stop the state law that takes effect next year banning the sale of firearms and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, an attorney said last week.

The new state law is one of multiple challenges facing the gun show, which was canceled this month and possibly again in May because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The expected legal action would be separate from an earlier lawsuit filed by Crossroads owners B&L Productions that resulted in a federal judge’s decision last year to overturn the 22nd District Agricultural Association’s ban on the shows, said Long Beach attorney C.D. Michel.

Gun safety advocates led by the Del Mar group NeverAgainCA have been working more than two years to end the shows. In recent months, NeverAgainCA has focused on ending the sales at the Crossroads shows of kits used to make “ghost guns,” which are untraceable, ready-to-assemble firearms without serial numbers.

Court documents filed earlier this month indicate the fairgrounds and the gun show owner may soon settle the lawsuit. However, any agreement reached probably would affect only the remaining shows for this year.

U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Bencivengo on March 11 denied a joint motion from both sides in the case to extend the deadlines for settlement discussions in the suit filed against the association, also known as the fair board, that operates the state-owned fairgrounds.

“Significant progress has been made toward reaching a settlement in this matter and terms ... are likely to be agreed to in the coming weeks,” the motion states.

Pressured by NeverAgainCA, the fair board voted in 2018 to suspend the Crossroads gun shows in 2019 until a policy could be developed that would prohibit the sales of all firearms and ammunition on the fairgrounds. Crossroads, along with the California Rifle and Pistol Association and other gun-rights advocates, filed the lawsuit in early 2019.

Bencivengo issued the injunction in June, saying that the suspension would cause “irreparable harm” to the show’s owners and vendors.

Her decision on the motion this month states only that “the court does not find good cause for the requested extension.” The deadlines that remain in effect are July 9 for discovery and Aug. 6 to file a motion for summary judgment.

Michel said the denial will have little effect on settlement efforts.

“We will soon be seeking a separate injunction against the new state law banning gun shows at Del Mar that was passed by the state Legislature,” Michel said.

The legislation approved in 2019 came after the board’s action and the Crossroads lawsuit. It bans the sale of firearms and ammunition at the fairgrounds effective in 2021.

B&L Productions has been in business more than 40 years and held the Crossroads shows at Del Mar for more than 30 years before the board temporarily stopped the events.

The two-day show scheduled in early March was canceled just days in advance because of the COVID-19 crisis. Large gatherings throughout the United States have been canceled or postponed to prevent the spread of the virus.

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