The Orange County Fair & Event Center Board of Directors voted on Sept. 23 to not attempt to circumvent an incoming bill that would ban gun shows at the fairgrounds.
Senate Bill 264, authored by Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), which would effectively ban gun shows at the Orange County Fair & Event Center, has been passed by the Assembly and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature before becoming law.
At the Sept. 13 board meeting, the board of directors considered sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom regarding the fiscal impact the ban would have on the fairgrounds, with the Crossroads of the West Gun Show bringing in around $1 million annually. They also considered preapproving 2022 contracts with the organization, which would be legal since it would be done prior to the bill becoming law.
The meeting was filled with many people who represented both sides of the matter, board members and public commenters alike.
Min, who spoke during the public comment period, said that while board members may disagree with the bill, he claimed the gun show ban is what the voters asked for when they voted him in, in November 2020.
“When I was growing up, the County Fairgrounds were known as family-friendly venues. In addition to the county fairs, you’d have rodeos … and other family-friendly events,” Min said during the meeting. “Today, they’re almost synonymous with gun shows. The average County Fairgrounds across the state has five gun shows a year, and I’m told that the OC Fair and Event Center has often held more than that.”
In his comments against gun shows, Min said that many homicides are committed with legally purchased firearms, adding that gun shows are not a “family-friendly” venue.
“The fact of the matter is that we are in a gun violence crisis in this country, in this state, and yes, in this community, and gun shows clearly are a major contributor to that crisis. So ending gun shows at the OC Fairgrounds, as I promised to do starting back in the summer of 2019, is an important step towards making our community safer,” Min said.
Board Chair Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia shot back at the remark, saying it’s not solely up to him to determine what is family-friendly.
“His statement is not accurate … I just want to put that on the record. This board is intended to be viewpoint neutral, and to indicate that one type of event held on our fairgrounds is not family-friendly is not really something for us to determine. There are different types of families who choose to do different types of activities,” she said.
Director Robert Ruiz also questioned Min, asking for more evidence regarding his claims of the community wanting gun shows to be removed.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions here,” Ruiz said. “I know the senator spoke about the majority of the people in the district wanting this gun show gone. Now we’re just wondering if there was a poll taken by the constituents? And what the results of this poll were, or is this just his opinion?”
Newly appointed Director Melahat Rafieit, a Democrat Party official who was appointed to the board by Newsom on Sept. 21, said the board needs to consider the moral implications of the gun show.
“I was told that we were writing this letter to inform the governor of this loss [of funding]; I’m pretty sure he’s aware of it,” she said. “He’s signed everything that he can to be supportive of this sort of legislation. So I don’t think our job is to inform him of what’s going to happen if this goes through.”
Ultimately, the board decided to table both the letter and pre-approving contracts until January, where they will decide what to do after the bill likely goes into law.