Updated at 12:20 p.m. July 13, 2018
On the eve of another Del Mar gun show, the head of a local Second Amendment group is offering a $10,000 reward if anyone can prove they bought a machine gun or assault weapon at the event.
Sales of such weapons in California are illegal.
Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, announced a news conference Friday on his “Challenge,” which also seeks proof that anyone bought a firearm at the show without a background check or 10-day waiting period.
“In an effort to ban guns and shut down the Crossroads of the West gun show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, legal gun owners have been demonized as criminals,” he said. “And gun show opponents have purposely spread lies and misinformation.”
But in a statement about the 11 a.m. press conference at Gunfighter Tactical in Miramar, Schwartz alleged that the media event, originally advertised at the fairgrounds, was shifted because of “unreasonable demands.”
He said state employees who manage the fairgrounds issued requirements that were impossible to meet, including extra costs for use of the property, security and insurance.
“SDCGO believes fairgrounds staff doesn’t like the content of the news story and doesn’t want us to talk to the press,” he said. “We were told by staff that these additional demands are because the content for the press conference is `gun stuff.’”
Schwartz labeled as unconstitutional such “arbitrary roadblocks” to news coverage on public lands.
Early Friday morning, Schwartz told Times of San Diego that the fairgrounds informed his group — a vendor at the gun show — that “we were not allowed to talk to media on their property and that media did not have permission to be on the publicly owned fairgrounds.”
He said fairgrounds employees “Trish and Dennis” indicated to him that the decision to “block press” was coming from the 22nd District Agricultural board.
“For decades I have watched media interview many other vendors at all kinds of different shows and events at the fairgrounds,” he said via email. “Never before us has the fairgrounds blocked media from interviewing people. I am sure blocking media and suddenly harassing attendees by fabricating new security concerns is just a harassment plan in order to bully the gun show off public property.”
Thursday night, a spokeswoman for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the fairgrounds operator, said the agency first heard of Schwartz’s press conference request Monday.
Jennifer Hellman, the spokeswoman, said staff informed him that Friday, July 13, was a scheduled dark day for events due to the “operational transition” from the fair to the horse-racing meet.
But she said the district would make every effort to accommodate Schwartz’s request upon receipt of a signed contract, rental fee and insurance requirements.
“As of this date, Mr. Schwartz and the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC have not requested a contract nor have they met the above requirements,” Hellman said. “The 22nd DAA prides itself on having a wonderful working relationship with local media, and suppressing freedom of the press is never something supported by this organization.”
Meanwhile, a gun-control group called NeverAgainCA ridiculed Schwartz’s reward offer as an excuse to raise money from PAC donors.
“Schwartz’s attempt to raise $10,000 on the backs of the nearly 10,000 children in the United States who are killed or injured by guns every year is especially craven,” said Rose Ann Sharp of Del Mar, lead organizer of NeverAgainCA.org.
Sharp said Schwartz knows that none of the allegations he claims to refute were ever made.
“Therefore, Schwartz’s challenge is a disingenuous fundraising scam which will never result in a payout,” she said via email. “Schwartz is betting that members of SDCGO PAC will ante up $10,000 to fund the award, which he knows can never be won.”
NeverAgainCA.org opposes gun shows on state-owned property because state agencies should not “promote and profit from” the proliferation of guns and ammunition, she said.
Sharp said Bob Templeton, longtime president of the five-times-a-year Del Mar gun shows, acknowledges that he was convicted of federal firearms violations for running guns to South Africa during the apartheid era.
“Court documents indicate that [son] Jeff Templeton, who was until recently the director of shows, was also convicted of federal firearms violations,” she said.
In May, district board President Steve Shewmaker told his board that “we’ve started an investigation with the Department of Justice” of allegations against the Templetons, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.
A later story said Bob Templeton has avoided legal conflicts by ceding responsibility for the event to his daughter, Tracy Olcott.
Hellman, the district rep, noted that Crossroads of the West has been hosting shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for decades.
“California has the strictest gun laws in the nation,” she said, “and this event, like all events at the fairgrounds, meets all legal requirements and exceeds safety standards.”
She said the 22nd District Agricultural Association is requiring Crossroads to use metal detectors at all entrances to the gun show Saturday and Sunday.
Schwartz shot back Friday: “There is no … basis for suddenly requiring thousands of dollars for metal detectors after 30 years of an exemplary legal and safety record. In no way is the fairgrounds preventing crime or improving safety in a show that already has an outstanding record.”
NeverAgainCA says protesters will return to the gun show from 9:30 a.m. until noon Saturday, where they expect to hear from Mike Levin, Democratic candidate in the 49th Congressional District, “who will be unveiling the art mural canvases of students pleading for us to make them safe and end gun shows.”
In his statement and press release about the Friday news conference, Schwartz targeted what he called anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment extremists “such as members of “the Brady Organization” and Moms Demand Action.
San Diegans For Gun Violence Prevention — comprising the San Diego chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action — said Friday it had no comment on the Schwartz offer.
“This issue is outside of our scope and we’ve never made any statements about the show nor have we protested about it,” said a statement by the group. “We are focused on safety education and advocating for sensible policy and legislation that make all Americans safer – such as universal background checks on all gun sales – which the vast majority of Americans support.”
Schwartz’s 3-year-old PAC hasn’t spent much, however. The inewsource database lists $1,145.03 in support of District Attorney Summer Stephan, and electiontrack.com shows it gave the county Republican Party $3,438 over the past two years.
The $10,000 reward is being promised by the Santee-based PAC as a donation to the winner’s favorite charity.
“[But] we recommend to anybody planning to break the law … begin saving for their legal defense fund because their legal fees will probably well exceed $10,000,” Schwartz said.