We are a group of San Diego County activists working together to end gun violence through legislation, education and activism. Originally known as Advocates for Gun Safety, this group spoke at meetings of the Board of Directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association and wrote letters to city, county and state officials regarding the removal of gun shows from their community. The Board refused to listen to us and continued to contract with Crossroads of the West Gun Shows allowing five gun shows a year.
After the tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018 in which 17 students and teachers were killed, the community demanded that we again take up the effort to end the Del Mar gun shows, and more. Responding quickly, we formed NeverAgainCA, our name taken from the hashtag used by the Parkland student survivors. We requested that the Del Mar Fair Board place consideration of ending gun shows on the agenda; once again the Board refused. This time when the Board refused to hear us, residents dedicated to gun violence prevention refused to go away.
A small group of Del Mar and Solana Beach residents staked their claim to the intersection of Jimmy Durante and Via de la Valle where, every Saturday morning on which there was a gun show at the Fairgrounds, we held up signs in front of the Fairgrounds billboard announcing our opposition and providing data on the dangers of firearms. We were joined by students from area high schools, volunteers from Brady United, Moms Demand Action, and many other organizations. We hosted visits by many local, state and Congressional officials who wanted to demonstrate their opposition to gun shows and we held numerous TV and press photo opportunities and interviews.
The action on our corner created enormous public awareness; any time a news outlet covered the gun show, they felt obligated to stop on our corner and interview some of our people or the public officials present, and their cameras always conveyed to their audience the catchy phrases, the names of the Parkland victims, and the student poetry on the signs being carried.
While the demonstrations helped to capture public awareness, perhaps what distinguished NeverAgainCA was the persistence of our strategic team of twenty volunteers who continuously planned new ways to make the campaign successful. Whether it was talking to their friends or their church groups, writing letters to the editors of local press or remarks delivered during the public comment period at Fair Board meetings, convincing their local city council members and mayors to adopt resolutions calling for the end of gun shows at the Fairgrounds, they never gave up. In September, 2018, six months after Parkland, the Fair Board voted to temporarily halt gun shows at the Fairgrounds for at least one year while it studied whether and how it would allow gun shows on its property in the future.
In retrospect, four steps seemed to have led to the success of the NeverAgainCA campaign:
1. Painstaking research by NeverAgainCA volunteers into the gun show vendor revealed that principals of the company had been convicted of Federal firearms law violations that had not been reported to the California Department of Justice, which regulated gun shows, or to the Fair Board;
2. Volunteers obtained and submitted petitions bearing the signatures of thousands of residents from all over San Diego County, including the eastern part of the county previously thought to be a bastion of NRA supporters;
3. City Councils of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas adopted resolutions calling on the Fair Board to discontinue hosting gun shows on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and state Assembly and state Senate members called on the Fair Board to end gun shows;
4. Lieutenant Governor and presumptive next California Governor Gavin Newsom submitted a letter to the Fair Board calling for a termination of gun shows on all state owned fairgrounds.
Subsequent to the Fair Board adoption of the moratorium, Todd Gloria, the state Assembly member representing the communities in which the Fairgrounds is located, introduced AB 893 which bans the sale of firearms and ammunition on the property controlled by the 22nd DAA effective January 1, 2021. Representatives of NeverAgainCA were instrumental in securing passage of the bill; members traveled to Sacramento to lobby legislators and testified in favor of the bill in both the Assembly and the Senate. The bill passed in both houses and Governor Newsom signed it into law.
The moratorium was less successful. A coalition of so-called Second Amendment organizations, which are related to the NRA and largely financed by firearms manufacturers and sellers, filed suit claiming that banning gun shows on state owned properties violates their First Amendment right to exercise free speech. The judge hearing the case noted that the California Department of Justice attorney was not properly prepared to argue the First Amendment claim and entered an order enjoining the Fair Board from enforcing the moratorium. The Fair Board and Cal DOJ capitulated and agreed not to pursue the moratorium.