Federal judge blocks California law banning gun shows at county fairs

Gun Rights

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday blocked California’s ban on gun shows at county fairs, ruling that the state is violating the rights of sellers and would-be buyers by prohibiting transactions for firearms that can be bought bought at any gun shop.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Holcomb halts enforcement of two state laws, both written by Democratic state Sen. Dave Min, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The first, effective Jan. 2022, barred gun shows at the Orange County Fair, and the other, which took effect this year, extended the ban to county fairgrounds on state-owned land.

“California’s interest in stopping crimes committed with illegal weapons, as important as it is, cannot justify prohibiting the complete sale of lawful firearms at gun shows,” Holcomb wrote.

Min called Holcomb’s injunction “shocking,” and predicted it would be overturned on appeal.

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“California’s vital ban on gun shows at state properties, encompassing even our iconic fairgrounds sites, serves as a critical line of defense against the unchecked proliferation of firearms, including ‘ghost guns’ that circumvent essential background checks and traceability,” Min said in a statement Monday.

Gun shows attract thousands of prospective buyers to local fairgrounds. Under a separate state law, not affected by the ruling, actual purchase of the firearm is completed at a licensed gun store after a 10-day waiting period and a background check, the Chronicle said.

But gun-control groups insist the shows pose dangers, making the weapons attractive to children and enabling “straw purchases” for people ineligible to possess firearms.

Another state law, also unaffected by Monday’s decision, has prohibited gun shows since 2020 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County. The Cow Palace in Daly City, which formerly held five gun shows per year, ended them in 2020 after multiple legislative measures to ban those shows were vetoed by Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.

Challengers to the statewide ban on gun shows at county fairs included the California Rifle & Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

“Anti-gun-owner politicians are trying to eliminate the ‘gun culture’ for future generations by, among other things, banning folks from getting together at a gun show to learn about guns, gun safety and gun-control politics,” Chuck Michel, the Rifle & Pistol Association’s president, said Monday

Since the Orange County Fair had previously hosted gun shows for three decades, Holcomb said, there was “no historical basis” for the state’s ban in 2022.

Attorney General Rob Bonta, who defended the laws in court, could appeal Holcomb’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bonta’s office asked Holcomb for a stay that would leave the law in effect for at least 10 days, according to the Chronicle. But the judge refused, saying state officials had not shown a likelihood of either a successful appeal or any interim danger to the public from gun shows that would take many months to schedule.

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