The Coast News Group
Mira Mesa residents Rick Cianci and his 10-year-old son, Ryan, are among the nearly dozen people to address the 22nd District Agricultural Association in support of gun shows at the fairgrounds. “It’s not the gun,” he said. “It’s the people.” Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Rancho Santa Fe

Board hears both sides of gun show issue

DEL MAR — A growing group of area residents is seeking to halt gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but at the Jan. 8 meeting of the facility’s board of directors, more people spoke in favor of the event than those who oppose it. 

“In a rush to make life safer, we must be careful not to do more harm than good,” state Sen. Joel Anderson said.

“A legally purchased firearm is often the only protection a single mom has to protect her children against an intruder,” he said, noting his 36th District includes many low-income communities, where security fences and systems aren’t an option.

“The Del Mar gun show provides a safe, legal avenue for many of my law-abiding constituents to purchase protection for their families.”

He added that canceling the shows could have unintended consequences.

One of those, according to Marc Halcon, owner of American Shooting Center in Kearny Mesa, is lost revenue to area hotels, restaurants and stores from show vendors and patrons.

How many more decisions do we need to help this state go off that fiscal cliff? Halcon asked.

Carl Higgins, a frequent gun show patron, noted the event provides safety classes and equipment.

“Why discourage (that) access?” he asked, adding that most gun owners are responsible people.

Tragedies such as the Dec. 14 shooting last month in Connecticut that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School are the acts “of criminally insane” madmen,” he said.

Other speakers who support continuing the gun shows included Kit Leeger, who said the number of murders “averted by good guys with guns” can’t be counted, and Ed Smith, whose daughter was one of five people killed in a still-unsolved case 20 years ago in Inglewood, Calif.

“If someone had a legal gun in their possession maybe the outcome would have been different,” he said.

The effort to ban gun shows at the fairgrounds is not new, but it was resurrected in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Del Mar resident Roseanne Holliday put a handmade sign in front of her house that read, “Stop Del Mar Gun Show and Sale.” The result is a petition with more than 750 signatures seeking to do just that.

When word of Holliday’s efforts spread, the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the fairgrounds, moved its monthly meeting to a bigger venue on the site in expectation of a large crowd.

About 160 chairs were set up in the Mission Tower, but only about 60 people attended the meeting, which ended in less than 90 minutes. Of the 15 people who addressed the board, five opposed the shows.

Because the issue wasn’t on the posted agenda, speakers shared their opinions during the public comment period, prohibiting board members from taking action on or discussing the issue.

Board President Adam Day said he would add it to a future meeting agenda at the request of one of his colleagues.

Resident Bud Emerson urged them to do so, acknowledging their constituents include people who see guns “as instruments of sport and protection” and those who consider them “instruments of violence.”

Emerson said he doesn’t understand people’s “enthusiasm for guns,” but he respects their rights and asked that they respect “those of us who find the shows … objectionable.”

“Imagine if that horrible murder of those Newtown children happened here in the San Diego region,” Emerson said.

“I see gun violence as a society-wide problem,” he added. “I think the glorification of guns is one important aspect of that.

“The solution must be multifaceted,” Emerson said. “Each one of us needs to take action. … You have a responsibility for one part of that solution.”

He asked board member to consider the issue, not as lawyers, which many board members are, “but as human beings.”

“With parents grieving the loss of their innocent toddler, would you be OK being sponsors of an event that glorifies guns?”

Holliday asked board members to reject any new agreements for future gun shows and end the contract with Crossroads of the West, the family-owned business that has produced the shows at the fairgrounds for 22 years.

Crossroads owner Robert Templeton said he worked with the state Senate, Assembly and departments of justice and agriculture to help create legislation to address issues that weren’t regulated.

“An event such as a gun show poses legitimate public safety concerns,” Templeton said. “We took it upon ourselves … to address the concerns of the people in the community.”

The meeting was held less than a month after the Sandy Hook shooting and on the day that marked two years since six were killed and 13 were injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, by a gunman in Arizona.

Several gun shows in and around Newtown were canceled earlier this month. The fairgrounds makes an annual profit of more than $300,000 from the shows, which prohibit the sale of assault weapons and hyper-fast magazine devices like those used in several mass murders such as the ones in Newtown and at a movie theater in Colorado last July.

The Del Mar City Council is scheduled to vote Jan. 14 on a resolution urging the 22nd DAA to not renew the contract with Crossroads or any other gun show sponsor.