Capitol Alert

This California fairground banned gun shows. Now it’s getting sued

A group of firearm dealers and Second Amendment advocates is suing a California county fair board, alleging that its decision last year to ban gun shows restricts the Constitutional rights of gun owners.

The lawsuit against the Del Mar Fairgrounds of San Diego County was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The primary plaintiff is B & L Productions, which claims to be the largest vendor of gun show events in California. It has hosted gun shows at Del Mar Fairgrounds for more than 30 years.

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Other plaintiffs include a number of gun show attendees and vendors, who alleged the closure would force them to travel hundreds of miles to attend a similar events. Several Second Amendment advocacy groups, including the California Rifle and Pistol Association, also joined the lawsuit.

“Gun shows have been held at the Del Mar venue for more than 30 years, with no safety issues raised by local law enforcement or the fair board,” the rifle and pistol association said in a statement. “Nonetheless, the Del Mar Fair Board bowed to the political pressure of anti-gun activists and gave in to those board members with particularly strong bias against the tens of thousands of individuals who attend these shows.”

The board voted in September to postpone gun shows for one year and ban the possession of firearms and ammunition on the property while looking at alternative events such as educational and safety training, according to KPBS.

“We’ve had actually two meetings with DOJ and there have been a number of arrests of felons in the possession here on the fairgrounds,” Board President Steven Shewmaker said in the meeting, according to KPBS. “Sending their wives and girlfriends in to buy ammunition and guns here at the fairgrounds. A number of arrests, in fact, I think he said one particular Saturday — a year or two ago — there was four such arrests in the parking lot. Is that safe? I don’t think so.”

Annie Pierce, spokeswoman for the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors — which runs the fairgrounds — said that that neither Stevens, fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell nor the board’s attorney have had a chance to review the lawsuit and she declined to comment until they have done so.

The lawsuit describes the B & L events as “a modern bazaar — a convention of like-minded individuals who meet in this unique public forum that has been set aside by state and local governments for all manner of commerce.”

The complaint contends that the gun show provides gun owners “a First Amendment forum” in a state “where government actors at all levels of government are openly hostile to the cultural values of the Second Amendment and where supporters of those cultural values are not considered ‘mainstream.’”

The lawsuit further alleges that “the venue has held other non-gun-show events in which criminal activity has taken place — including theft and a shooting.”

In early September, a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy shot a man accused of pulling out a pistol and firing several shots after he couldn’t get a ticket to a sold-out Ice Cube concert, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The district has taken no actions to ban or impose a moratorium on these promoters or events,” the lawsuit states.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.