DEL MAR — As pressure to end gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds continues, president of the 22nd District Agricultural Association Stephen Shewmaker announced that Crossroads of the West Gun Shows owner Robert Templeton is under investigation.
Crossroads has held gun shows at the fairgrounds for the last 28 years.
“There have been allegations against the promoter of the shows we currently have at the fairgrounds, serious allegations,” Shewmaker said, shortly before a public comment period.
“We on the board take those seriously and we’ve started an investigation with the Department of Justice,” he said. “They’re involved in it right now to make sure that the licensing of the promoter is up to snuff.”
Del Mar resident Rose Ann Sharp said when she and her husband, Ira, founders of NeverAgainCA, began looking into the business background of Templeton and learned that he and his son, Jefferey, are both convicted felons.
According to reports in the Deseret News and other publications across Utah, where Crossroads is based, the elder Templeton pleaded guilty to charges that stemmed from the sale and transport of guns to Mormons in South Africa.
Jeffrey also has a series of firearms violations and drug arrests.
“I was a federally licensed firearms dealer,” Robert Templeton said. “There was a series of errors that I pled guilty to that turned out to be felonies. We bargained down to one charge.”
Templeton said he served one year of a two-year sentence.
“I’m not prepared to discuss the details of the case,” he added. “The violation was 43 years ago.
It’s not relevant anymore.”
A certificate of eligibility, or COE, is required in California for all prospective firearms dealers, gun show promoters and others. It confirms the Department of Justice has conducted a background check and determined the recipient is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms.
Although he has held gun shows at the fairgrounds for 28 years — and other venues statewide — Templeton said he has never applied for or been issued a COE because his wife and daughter manage the shows.
“It’s interesting to note that I was involved in the conversation with the legislature and with the (state Division of) Fairs & Expositions in Sacramento in tightening up the requirements for gun shows,” he said. “One of the things we agreed to at those meetings was we would require a certificate of eligibility for folks who were providing gun shows. Even though I was involved in putting that law together, I never applied for, nor did I receive, a certificate of eligibility.”
Templeton said his son hasn’t been an officer with Crossroads for “over 10 years, maybe longer than that … nor is he actively involved with our operations at all.”
“The extent of his involvement with the shows is that he has a table in Las Vegas and Phoenix for our shows there,” he said. “He’s a member of our family and the board of directors is comprised of only family.
“I don’t know when it was that he ceased being an officer,” he added. “But my recollection is that it was prior to the time he was sentenced for his violations, which was way before 2015.”
Templeton, who had his right to own firearms restored by the federal government in 1989, said he retired nine years ago and his involvement with Crossroads is primarily “speaking to the media when we have an issue.”
In the 1990s, Templeton was asked by then-Gov. Michael Leavitt to serve on a firearms advisory panel. He said when a newspaper disclosed his felony conviction he voluntarily stepped down because he “didn’t want to jeopardize the work of the committee.”
He said he is unaware of the current investigation.
“We have a good relationship with the people at the Department of Justice,” he said. “We’ve always been cooperative.”
Rose Ann Sharp said she and her husband described their findings in a letter sent to the 22nd DAA a few weeks ago. She said Shewmaker advised them to bring it up at the meeting.
“We really didn’t want to make it a news story,” she said. “There’s a sad component, with drug problems.”
“It’s time that you stop using state-owned property to put profit over the value of lives in this national epidemic of gun violence,” she said to board members during the public comment period, which meant the nine-member panel couldn’t respond to or discuss any statements made.
“We are here to protect the children and the families.”
“I volunteered to go to Vietnam because I wanted to protect all of our rights as Americans, including the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment,” David Patterson, of San Diego Veterans for Peace, said. “I still take that responsibility seriously.
“However, I reject the gun lobby and the gun owners’ narrative that closing this gun show, or any gun show for that matter, impinges on people’s civil liberties in any way,” he added, noting that firearms can be purchased at gun stores. “They do not need the gun show at Del Mar to buy a weapon. Thus, the Second Amendment rights are not impacted by closing this gun show.”
“By continuing with five gun shows a year … what are you saying to the young people of our community who are begging, literally begging, for a change?” Kara Chine asked. “We have a community of students who live with a constant plan in their heads for when a shooter arrives at their school.”
The only person who spoke in favor of the gun shows was Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners.
He presented the board with 3,100 mostly handwritten letters supporting the gun shows.
“They took the time to do this because they care,” Schwartz said. “Ending the gun show’s not going to prevent a crime. It’s not going to save a life. All it’s going to do is send a message to these 3,100 people … that their civil rights, their right to assemble and their right to keep their arms are undesirable and that’s just wrong.”
Schwartz said every letter asked the board to, “please renew the contract without any new restrictions or requirements.”
At last month’s 22nd DAA meeting, when speakers supporting the gun shows outnumbered opponents 3-1, board members asked that the topic be placed on the September agenda for discussion.