Federal appeals court upholds California’s gun show ban on state property

Federal appeals court upholds California’s gun show ban on state property

California’s ban on gun shows on state property is constitutional, a federal appeals court said on Tuesday, June 11.

In Orange County, gun shows — including the Crossroads of the West Gun Show that had been held at the  OC Fair & Event Center since 1996 — were banned in 2022 under a state law authored by Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine. The ban was later expanded to include all state properties, including state-owned fairgrounds.

In October, however, a federal judge blocked those bans, saying California was violating the rights of gun sellers and possible buyers by prohibiting purchases at the fairgrounds of weapons that could be bought legally at standard gun shops. That made it possible for the Crossroads of the West gun show to return to the  OC Fair & Event Center in January after a two-year hiatus.

The federal appeals court’s 3-0 ruling overturns that decision, effectively blocking the gun shows on state-owned fairgrounds, including the OC Fair & Event Center, yet again.

Related links

Crossroads of the West Gun Show returns to Orange County fairgrounds
Ban on gun shows at OC fairgrounds takes effect Jan. 1
Gun shows at OC fairgrounds are likely done unless Newsom vetoes bill

“Today’s a big win for anyone who cares about gun safety,” said Min, who is running for Congress in California’s 47th congressional district. “If you care about gun safety, if you care about preventing gun violence … this is a big win for you.”

The California Rifle and Pistol Association, a pro-gun owners organization that challenged the bans, said it would appeal Tuesday’s decision.

“CRPA will continue to protect the despised gun culture and fight back against an overreaching government that seeks to limit disfavored fundamental rights and discriminate against certain groups of people on state property,” the association said in a statement. “CRPA looks forward to seeing this misguided decision reversed in short order.”

B&L Productions, the group that operates Crossroads of the West gun shows, had also challenged the ban on gun sales on state property, alleging a violation of gun buyers’ constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms.

Judge Richard Clifton, appointed to the appeals court by former President George W. Bush, wrote in Tuesday’s 25-page decision that gun sales are “nonexpressive conduct” and thus are not protected by the First Amendment.

Min said his legislation prevents gun sellers from selling firearms on state property, not talking about them.

“If Crossroads of the West decided they wanted to do a show about how cool guns are where they spoke about guns, they can do that,” he said. “They just can’t sell them.”

In the ruling, Clifton wrote, A “celebration of America’s ‘gun culture,”’ in the words of one of B&L’s briefs, can still take place on state property, as long as that celebration does not involve contracts for the sale of guns.”

Plus, there are six licensed firearm dealers in the same ZIP code as the fairgrounds, Clifton noted in the ruling, and banning gun sales on state property won’t impair potential buyers from owning firearms.

As it was, a separate state law — not challenged in the ruling — imposes a 10-day waiting period and a background check before a firearms dealer can release the weapon to the buyer, meaning someone who purchased a gun at a show on fairgrounds would not be able to walk away with it that same day, the appeals court noted.

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“Merely eliminating one environment where individuals may purchase guns does not constitute a meaningful constraint on Second Amendment rights when they can acquire the same firearms down the street,” he said.

Tracy Olcott, president of Crossroads of West, said the gun show has always been one of the “biggest financial contributors” to the OC Fair & Event Center. (When reached Tuesday afternoon, Olcott declined to comment on the ruling.)

The total revenue for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show held at the OC Fair & Event Center in January was $226,250, said event center spokesperson Terry Moore, which included parking as well as food and beverage commissions in addition to the rental fee.

The OC Fair & Event Center is waiting to hear from its attorney on the next possible steps, said Moore.

Attorney General Rob Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, applauded Tuesday’s ruling. Bonta, who defended the bans in court, said the ruling is “another victory in the battle against gun violence in our state and country.”

“If other states followed our policies, thousands of lives would be saved — we won’t stop defending our laws from the right’s radical lawsuits,” said Newsom.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Crossroads of the West gun show brought the fairgrounds about $2.6 million in rental revenue, and according to estimates from 2021, gun shows raked in more than $7 million over the last 25 years for the fairgrounds.

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