The Coast News Group
Gun shows
The outcome of the legal settlement will allow gun shows to continue at the state-owned property through the end of 2020. Courtesy photo

Fairgrounds, Crossroads settle gun show lawsuit

DEL MAR – A lawsuit between the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ governing board and Crossroads of the West Gun Shows ended in a settlement last week after the Utah-based company sued the fair board in early 2019 due to a moratorium placed on the Del Mar gun show.

The outcome will allow gun shows to continue at the state-owned property through the end of 2020 — though such a reality is contingent on the mandates of public health officials, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gun shows will come to a halt once more in January 2021, when a bill authored by state Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) renders the sale of firearms and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds illegal.

As a result of the settlement, the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA) Board will pay Crossroads over $500,000 in damages and attorneys fees. Due to the moratorium, three of the company’s Del Mar shows were canceled in 2019.

Although Crossroads President Tracy Olcott said the company is disappointed with the timing, they are “happy with the settlement.”

“Unfortunately, with Gloria’s bill coming into effect next year, we’re losing shows and who knows when we’ll get back into business in Del Mar,” she said, referring also to the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

Olcott said the money from the settlement will go into legally challenging the Gloria bill.

“We think it’s important to put that money right back into the fight,” she said.

The gun shows have long been controversial in North County, though opposition spiked in recent years due to the prevalence of mass shootings nationwide.

The shows, which have been held for the past 30 years, draw gun enthusiasts from across the state and beyond. Merchants at the show sell guns, gun parts, ammunition, and other items.

In September 2018, the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors voted to place a moratorium on the gun shows — setting off a months-long cycle of legal and political action.

Crossroads of the West sued the board in early 2019, citing a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. The legal action then sparked Gloria to propose — and later get passed — a bill (AB893) aimed at ending the sale of guns and ammunition at the fairgrounds.

Although the resulting law won’t necessarily put an end to the show itself, Crossroads representatives and supporters have said that an “educational” version of the event would no longer be a “gun show.”

Last summer, Crossroads of the West was able to secure an injunction from the U.S. District Court, allowing their shows to continue for the time being. This outcome still stands given the settlement — or it did until the novel coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of shows in March and the possibility of more cancellations in the future.

The show usually occurs five times a year.

For this reason, and with AB893 taking effect in January, local opposition groups don’t think the settlement will change much about the fate of gun shows in Del Mar.

“The settlement didn’t yield anything,” said Rose Ann Sharp, Del Mar resident and founder of NeverAgainCA. “…We do not see that this settlement will have any impact on our ability or the state’s ability to go forward with AB893.”

NeverAgainCA has been actively opposing the gun shows since early 2018. The group specifically takes issue with the sale of guns and ammunition on state-owned grounds in general, but has also spoken out against the “ghost guns” sold at such events. The term refers to gun kits — or unfinished guns that can be assembled at home without requirements for registration or background checks, and without a mandated waiting period.

In March, both Del Mar and Solana Beach passed ordinances requesting the fairgrounds ban the sale of such kits. At this point, the fair board has not taken action on this issue.

In a statement, NeverAgainCA said the settlement “was not unexpected,” given the financial challenges currently faced by the fairgrounds.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds has canceled most events for the foreseeable future, including the annual San Diego County Fair, which usually takes place in June and July.

Crossroads canceled its Del Mar show in March at the outset of the crisis and announced its mid-May show would be postponed to July 11-12. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that large gatherings or events over the summer are “unlikely.”