Orange County Fair officials may rush to pre-approve the contracts for its annual gun shows to take place next year before the implementation of a proposed state law which would, if passed, target and ban that very event.
On top of that, fair officials may seek to address some public outcry over such events by prohibiting parts used to make “ghost guns” — firearms assembled with parts or kits that don’t have traceable serial numbers — from any future gun shows at the fairgrounds.
The OC Fair’s Governor-appointed Board of Directors is set to discuss all of this at a Monday special meeting, which will be held over Zoom. Here’s a link to the meeting agenda, which includes instructions for accessing the meeting.
At the heart of the issue is a bill that sits on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, which would ban gun and ammunition sales at the OC Fair, introduced by state Senator Dave Min who has been vocally critical of gun shows at the fairgrounds.
OC Fair staff in a report attached to Monday’s meeting point to an exemption in the bill’s applicability for “any rental agreements that are in place prior to the bill’s effective date” of January 1, 2022.
Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, the company which has run the fairgrounds gun shows for 25 years, has requested the Fair Board “consider pre-approving its rental agreements for 2022 to allow transition time for the promoter to find a new location for the gun shows.”
“The promoter also acknowledged prior conversations by the Board regarding firearm precursor parts used to make ‘ghost guns,’ and has offered to consider eliminating those exhibitors from its 2022 shows if approved,” reads the fair agency staff’s report.
Fair Board Directors on Monday will also discuss making a last-ditch appeal to Newsom’s office with a letter requesting he veto Min’s bill.
Min’s bill has progressed through the legislative halls of Sacramento, but what was originally a proposal to ban any gun or ammunition sale on all state property eventually morphed — due to lack of state-level support — into a ban which solely applies to the 32nd District Agricultural Association, the state agency overseeing the OC Fair.
The state Senate passed Min’s bill on Sept. 3, after various amendments, and it now awaits Newsom’s signature, who is up for a recall election on Tuesday.
Gun shows have been a staple at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa for more than two decades, seen as a reliable revenue generator for the state-owned property and put on about four times a year by Crossroads of the West Gun Shows.
The Fair Board’s Feb. 25 vote to allow four more Crossroads gun shows this year was criticized by state Sen. Dave Min (D-Westminster), who at the time called the move “grossly irresponsible” amid uproar over unlicensed firearms and ongoing alarms about the prevalence of guns — and gun violence — in the U.S.
Crossroads President Bob Templeton, reached for comment over the phone Friday, called Min’s proposed bill “ill-conceived,” but said his company is “prepared to address whatever concerns the board has with the shows.”
His company has hosted gun shows at the fairgrounds for 25 years, happening four times a year, “with no serious law enforcement issues being raised.”
Templeton asserts that the sale of “precursor” parts, which are known to be assembled into ghost guns, is legal “and we have not restricted those on the advice of our attorney because they are legal.”
Indeed, “there are no federal restrictions on who can buy ghost gun kits or parts” and “there are no federal limitations on how many ghost gun kits or parts someone can buy,” according to Brady, a national anti-gun violence group.
While Templeton said his company has “not had that conversation yet” around whether to discontinue the sale of precursor gun parts, “the purpose of the board meeting is to determine a way forward to continue serving the gun owners of Orange County and address the concerns of those who are concerned.”
Templeton also argues that gun sales don’t technically happen on-the-spot at gun shows as California law imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee.
The issue has also caught the attention of the National Rifle Association (NRA)’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which criticized Min’s bill on Friday as imposing a “one-size-fits-all restriction to prevent officials from deciding how to use venues.”
“In addition, this prevents businesses from renting taxpayer-funded venues for lawful activities,” the NRA wrote in an online call-to-action for supporters.
The Crossroads gun shows have made about $6.7 million in total revenue at the OC Fair since 1996, according to official data provided by OC Fair spokesperson Terry Moore.