Protestors to Return with Weekend Gun Show

A steadfast group of gun show opponents say they will return to protest outside the Crossroads of the West event in Del Mar this weekend, as they have several times already this year.

And once again, they will be vastly outnumbered by firearms enthusiasts.

Thousands of people will walk or drive past them and pay $16 each to see and handle all kinds of rifles, shotguns, handguns, tactical knives, and camouflage hunting gear. Ammunition will be sold by the case.

It will be the first gun show at the state-owned fairgrounds since questions were raised in May about the legality of the event because two of the family-run business’s officers are convicted felons.

Members of the group NeverAgainCa, which is leading the protests, alleged the shows should be shut down because the patriarch of the company, Robert (Bob) Templeton, and his son, Jeff, both have firearms violations.

In response, the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state-appointed board that runs the fairgrounds, asked the state Department of Justice to investigate to determine if any laws have been broken.

The elder Templeton said in May that the shows are legal because they are run by his daughter, Tracy Olcott, who has a clean record, and that he and his son are not involved in the show’s management.

Justice Department officials have not responded to requests for information about the Templeton investigation.

“They are not allowed to communicate these kinds of things with folks other than law enforcement agencies,” fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell said Tuesday. “We asked about Bob Templeton and his past record. They are not able to respond back to us.”

Templeton is correct that his daughter has the approval of the Justice Department and holds the certificate of eligibility required to sign the gun show contracts, Fennell said.

“Our board is satisfied with that, and that the show is being run legally,” he said.

It’s “a little frustrating” to the board that it can’t get any information about its request for an investigation, Fennell said, but there’s little they can do about it.

Firearms have polarized Americans more than ever, like so many other issues in the current red-blue political climate. Most people are incensed by the recent rise in mass shootings at schools, nightclubs and public events across the nation. But they are divided over how to stop the violence.

The Never Again group’s biggest target is the Crossroads show, held five times annually at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and at other large public venues throughout the West.

Opponents say the show normalizes a culture of recreational firearms and promotes them in a country that has more guns than residents. Supporters say the show protects First and Second Amendment rights and allows like-minded people to share their passions and teach others about firearm safety.

Weapons are sold at the shows, but California laws require a background check and a 10-day waiting period for the delivery of most guns. Some assault rifles, automatic weapons and semi-automatic firearms are banned by the state.

The Del Mar fair board has approved contracts with Crossroads for the rest of this year, Fennell said, and those shows will go on as planned. At its meeting in September, the board is expected to decide whether to continue the shows next year and whether to place any restrictions on them should they remain.

Residents of a few other California communities also are trying to end the Crossroads gun shows as a result of the recent shootings.

Members of the San Francisco Chapter of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence went to the Cow Palace fair board in June to ask for the end of gun shows there. The Cow Palace is a large indoor arena nearby on the state fairgrounds in Daley City. The reaction there was much the same as in Del Mar.

“They have indicated they likely will put this on the agenda sometime in the fall,” said chapter member Ruth Borenstein. “They listened politely and seemed interested, but didn’t say anything.”

The Orange County fair board, which hosts the gun shows at the Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, delayed approval of some Crossroads contracts after requests at a meeting in May.

But a month later, at a meeting in June, the Orange County board approved contracts for shows in August, October and November, stating there was no reason to suspect that Olcott’s certificate of eligibility is not valid.

Several San Diego County cities, including Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas, have approved resolutions asking the fair board to end the gun shows. But gun show supporters have outnumbered opponents at most fair board meetings.

“I try to take a neutral stance, but there are quite a few in support of it,” Fennell said Tuesday. “We are a county fairgrounds, so it’s not just the local community” that the fairgrounds serves.

“Our view is that as long as the gun shows are legal in California, and we are a public facility,” that a state law probably would have to be passed to ban the shows, he said.

The gun shows are staunchly supported by members of the San Diego County Gun Owners group, a political action committee with more than 1,000 members.

Michael Schwartz, executive director of the group, presented the board with a stack of about 3,000 signed letters in support of the gun show at the meeting in May. He and other supporters defend the shows as wholesome, educational, family activities.

In a news release Thursday, Schwartz said gun show opponents have “spread lies and misinformation, such as (that) adults and minors can break the law at the guns show, and buy machine guns and assault weapons and avoid background checks and 10-day waiting periods.

“If anyone can show proof, then (the gun owners group) will donate $10,000 to their favorite charity,” the release states.

San Francisco area politicians, including Democratic state Sen. Scott Weiner, have proposed a bill that would ban the sales of guns and ammunition at the Cow Palace beginning in 2020. That attempt is the fourth there since 2004, but supporters say there’s more momentum this year because of recent events.

San Diego state Assembly member Todd Gloria, also a Democrat, introduced a bill in the legislature in March that would strengthen the restrictions on concealed weapons permits, but so far has not taken up the issue of gun shows.

Rose Ann Sharp, a Del Mar resident and leader of the area’s Never Again movement, said the group and its supporters plan to bring three murals to this weekend’s protest. The largest, measuring 10 feet by 4 feet, with the theme “Show you care, end the gun show,” will be on display Saturday near the electronic sign at the corner of Via Del La Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

Area students created the murals and will continue working on them during the demonstration, Sharp said. Demonstrators also will wear their orange T-shirts and carry signs and banners.