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B & L Productions, Inc. v. 22nd District Agricultural Association

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 25, 2019

B & L PRODUCTIONS, INC. d/b/a CROSSROADS OF THE WEST et al., Plaintiffs,


          Hon. Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge.

         At a hearing on June 17, 2019, and in an order dated June 18, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants, denied Plaintiffs' request for entry of summary judgment, and issued a preliminary injunction against Defendant 22nd District Agricultural District (the “District”). The purpose of this opinion is to provide the reasoning for the Court's order.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff B&L Productions, Inc. d/b/a Crossroads of the West (“Crossroads”) operates gun show events in California, including at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (the “Fairgrounds”). [Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 1.] Plaintiffs California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. (“CRPA”); South Bay Rod and Gun Club, Inc. (“SBRGC”); Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. (“SAF”); Barry Bardack; Ronald J. Diaz, Sr.; John Dupree; Christopher Irick; Lawrence Michael Walsh; and Maximum Wholesale, Inc. d/b/a Ammo Bros (“MW”), attend and participate in the Crossroads gun show at the Fairgrounds. [Id. at ¶ 7.] The Complaint describes gun shows as:

a modern bazaar-a convention of like-minded individuals who meet in this unique public forum that has been set aside by state local governments for all manner of commerce. Gun shows just happen to include the exchange of products and ideas, knowledge, services, education, entertainment, and recreation, related to the lawful uses of firearms. Those lawful uses include (but are not limited to):
a. Firearm safety training;
b. Self-defense;
c. Defense of others;
d. Defense of community;
e. Defense of state;
f. Defense of nation;
g. Hunting;
h. Target shooting;
i. Gunsmithing;
j. Admiration of guns as art;
k. Appreciation of guns as technological artifacts; and
l. Study of guns as historical objects.

[Id. at ¶ 47.] The complaint further alleges that:

Gun shows in general, and the Del Mar show in particular, are a celebration of America's “gun culture” that is a natural and essential outgrowth of the constitutional rights that flow from the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Participating in that culture is one of the primary reasons people attend Crossroads gun shows as vendors, exhibitors, customers, and guests (even if particular vendors/attendees are not in the firearm business or in the market to buy a gun at a particular event.)

[Id. at ¶ 49.]

         According to the complaint, individuals attending and participating in these gun shows engage in commercial activities [id. at ¶ 3], but “[a]ctual firearm transfers are prohibited from taking place at any gun show in California absent very limited exceptions applicable only to law enforcement” [id. at ¶ 43]. “Only a small percentage (usually less than 40%) of the vendors actually offer firearms or ammunition for sale. The remaining vendors offer accessories, collectibles, home goods, lifestyle products, food and other refreshments.” [Id. at ¶ 48.]

         In addition, according to the complaint, these gun show events include activities and discussions related to: “firearms, firearm technology, firearm safety, gun-politics, and gun-law (both pending legislation and proper compliance with existing law.) Other topics include: where to shoot, where and from whom to receive training, gun-lore, gun-repair, gunsmithing, gun-art, and many other topics, that arise from the right to acquire, own, possess, enjoy, and celebrate arms as a quintessentially American artifact with Constitutional significance.” [Id. at ¶ 3.] The complaint also alleges that at gun shows, “literature and information are shared, speakers provide valuable live lectures, classes are conducted, political forums are held where gun rights discussions take place, and candidates for political office can meet to discuss political issues, the government, and the Constitution with constituents who are part of the California gun culture.” [Id. at ¶ 52.]

         The Fairgrounds is owned by the state of California and managed by the board of directors of Defendant 22nd District Agricultural Association (the “District”). [Id. at ¶¶ 23, 58, 112.] According to the complaint, the Fairgrounds “is used by many different public groups and is a major event venue for large gatherings of people to engage in expressive activities, including concerts, festivals, and industry shows.” [Id. at ¶ 63.] The Fairgrounds' website allegedly describes its mission as “‘[t]o manage and promote a world-class, multi-use, public assembly facility with an emphasis on agriculture, education, entertainment, and recreation in a fiscally sound and environmentally conscientious manner for the benefit of all.'” [Id. at ¶ 66 (emphasis originally in complaint); Doc. No. 1-2 at 2-33; Doc. No. 14-5 at 206.][1]

         Defendant Karen Ross is the Secretary of the California Department of Food & Agriculture (the “CDFA”), the entity responsible for policy oversight of the Fairgrounds. [Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 24.] According to the complaint, she oversees the operation of the District, and authorized the other Defendants “to interpret, enforce, and implement [the CDFA's] policies for the operation and management of the [Fairgrounds].” [Id. at ¶¶ 59, 113.]

         Defendants Steve Shewmaker and Richard Valdez are president and vice-president of the District Board of Directors, respectively. [Id. at ¶¶ 25, 26.] Shewmaker and Valdez were also the members of an “ad hoc committee responsible for developing the plan, in closed session, to effectively ban gun shows from the [Fairgrounds].” [Id.; see also ¶ 84] At a public hearing on September 11, 2018, this committee:

recommended that the District not consider any contracts with the producers of gun shows beyond December 31, 2018 until such time as the District has put into place a more thorough policy regarding the conduct of gun shows that:
a. Considers the feasibility of conducting gun shows for only educational and safety training purposes and bans the possession of guns and ammunition on state property[;]
b. Aligns gun show contract language with recent changes to state and federal law[;]
c. Details enhanced security plan for the conduct of future shows[;]
d. Proposes a safety plan[;]
e. Considers the age appropriateness of the ...

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