Newsom Bans Gun Shows At Southern California Fairgrounds

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

For decades now the Orange County Fairgrounds has hosted gun shows, allowing thousands of California Second Amendment supporters to gather together not only to peruse the wares from vendors, but to peaceably assemble in defense of their constitutional rights. Those days are likely over now that Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill outlawing gun shows on the property, unless a lawsuit can overturn the latest Democratic-led attack on the rights of California gun owners.

Introduced by state Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), Senate Bill 264 was among a suite of gun-safety bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before an Oct. 10 deadline. Its mandates take effect Jan. 1, making it illegal to sell guns or ammunition on property run by the OC Fair & Event Center, which constitutes the state’s 32nd District Agricultural Assn.

Min called the bill’s passage a great first step in reducing gun violence in Orange County and vowed Monday to revisit a statewide ban in the future.

Min’s proposal originally would have done just that, but it was amended in committee to specifically target the Orange County facility. So far gun control activists have imposed piecemeal bans in places like the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco, Orange County’s fairgrounds, and San Diego’s Del Mar Fairgrounds, but a statewide ban is coming. Gun control advocates won’t be satisfied with anything less.

But Min’s claim that Orange County is somehow going to be a safer place now that it’s free of gun shows is utterly ridiculous. Every one of California’s gun control laws applies to sales at gun shows, from the universal background check requirement to the 10-day waiting period, so if gun shows are still “fueling violence” then what does that say about the efficacy of California’s draconian gun control laws?

“The state should not be profiting off of what is essentially blood money,” Min said, maintaining that legal gun shows are places where under-the-table deals and the purchase of parts for unlicensed “ghost guns” have taken place. “I think that’s an important moral line to draw in the sand right now.”

Oh, it’s a moral question, is it? In that case, what’s moral about making it more difficult for people to exercise a constitutionally protected right? I hate to break it Min, but his argument is largely the same one used by Democrats of decades-past who proclaimed the moral case against allowing Negroes and immigrants to carry handguns, vote, and fully enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. As attorney and scholar Dave Kopel wrote a decade ago:

Reconstruction formally ended in 1877 with the inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. Even before that, white supremacist “redeemer” governments had taken over one Southern state after another.

Because the new 14th Amendment forbade any state to deny “the equal protection of the laws,” gun control statutes aimed at blacks could no longer be written in overtly racial terms. Instead, the South created racially neutral laws designed to disarm freedmen. Some laws prohibited inexpensive firearms while protecting more expensive military guns owned by former Confederate soldiers. Meanwhile, other laws imposed licensing systems or carry restrictions. As a Florida Supreme Court justice later acknowledged, these laws were “never intended to be applied to the white population” (Watson v. Stone, 1941).

Southern courts generally upheld these laws. In the 19th and 20th centuries, these court precedents played a substantial role in maintaining white supremacy by facilitating unofficial–but government-tolerated–violence against blacks and civil rights advocates. Today, these racist laws are the foundation of continuing infringements of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

There is nothing moral about standing at the steps of the gun show doors refusing entry to those who desire to exercise their Second Amendment rights. In fact, it is immoral to blame the law-abiding for the acts of criminals, to disarm the public in the name of public safety, and to prevent the exercise of a civil right in the name of progress.

And again, this isn’t just about chilling the Second Amendment rights of Californians. As the California Rifle & Pistol Association argued earlier this year in opposition to Min’s original proposal banning all gun shows on state-owned-or-managed property:

Gun shows draw multiple generations of families who share a love for passing on their heritage of hunting and the outdoors. Gun shows draw couples who, many times, are introducing their spouse to firearms and self-protection. Gun shows draw new gun owners, like the more than 1 million new gun buyers in 2020, who want to learn more about protecting themselves and their families. And most importantly, gun shows provide a venue for those who choose to own a firearm for lawful purposes to learn more about firearms and discuss issues that are important to gun owners in California.

This is not the first time that California politicians tried to end gun shows at the request of well-funded gun control lobbying groups like Everytown while masquerading as grassroots advocates. For decades, these groups have pushed politicians to try to stop lawful gun shows — all without any evidence to support any of their claims. In 2019, hundreds of supporters showed up in support of the gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. State officials were told by their lawyers that the gun shows were safe and operating within the law, that the proposed ban was a First Amendment violation, and the state was warned countless times that a violation of constitutional rights would bring litigation. Only one board member listened — and because he dissented, the Governor promptly fired him.

The CRPA has filed suit against the Del Mar Fairgrounds ban, and I expect that we’ll see new litigation filed over Newsom’s latest attack on gun shows as well. Let’s just hope that the courts step in before Min is able to pass his statewide ban, because if not it may take a miracle from St. Benitez to keep California gun shows from being snuffed out completely.