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Senator Scott Wiener. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

San Francisco Gun Show Limiting Bill May Face a Senate Vote

SB 281 would stop all gun shows at the Cow Palace, but no longer seeks to close the arena

By Evan Symon, January 27, 2020 5:27 pm

A bill that would ban gun shows from being held at the historic Cow Palace on the San Francisco and Daly City border could reach a Senate vote in the coming months depending on the outcome of the amendments made after the next reading.

A bill to rid San Francisco of a gun show

Senate Bill 281, authored by Assemblyman Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would prohibit all firearm and ammunition sales there beginning January 1, 2021 with the additional language that it would be illegal there for the Cow Palace or “any successor or additional property owned.”

The bill has brought out an unusual pairings of groups and organizations against it. The NRA, concerned over second amendment rights, has been joined by many community groups and local leaders who were concerned about how it would have lead to the demolition of the Cow Palace in favor of expensive housing developments.

Senator Wiener steps back from the fight over the Cow Palace

“It promotes shows here that can’t afford Oracle arena,” said Keven Patterson, the Executive Director of the Coalition to Save the Cow Palace. [A cheerleading] event can’t afford the Chase Arena because it’s a cheerleading event, not the Warriors.”

Other locals give similar arguments.

The Cow Palace of San Francisco. (Wikipedia)

“This is where everything happens where you need an audience. Has been since my great-grandpa was here,” said Daly City resident Tony Martin, who estimates he goes to at least a dozen events at the Cow Palace a year. “I don’t think Wiener knows the first thing about what this place means for the city, and the community, and history. If they tore it down a lot of events would have nowhere to go. And that means lost money for both cities.

Yes, there are gun shows here, but it’s like one event out of hundreds. Why go after the whole building when you say you’re about getting rid of guns?”

Wiener and the city have gone after the Cow Palace before. Last year he had directly attempted to move ownership of the arena from the State Department of Agriculture to city and county rule.

Senator Wiener, local lawmakers, and some citizens have said that the Cow Palaces time is over and needs costly repairs to keep going. The complex also covers 70 acres, an area of which supporters say can fill in a lot of the areas housing needs.

“This is about making sure that the local community can actually have a say in what happens at the Cow Palace and what the future holds,” expressed Senator Wiener last year. “It’s right now being very under-utilized. The community has wanted something to happen with that property for a long time. Housing, mixed use development.”

However, due to amendments added after the bills 2019 hiatus, the bill will no longer close the area or transfer it to the cities and county.

A history of similarly failed bills and possible future court issues

All that remains now in SB 281 is the gun show ban.

Previous versions of the bill that tried to end gun shows at the Cow Palace have failed. Former Governor Jerry Brown had vetoed a bill in 2013 and SB 221 in 2018, essentially allowing gun shows to continue in San Francisco and giving the Cow Palace yet another tenant.

While the bill is helped this time around by probable signing by Governor Gavin Newsom, who has largely been against firearms, especially in the city he was Mayor in for years, SB 281 does face an unusual speedbump ahead.

Even if it’s signed by the Governor, courts could quickly invalidate it, as a ban against gun shows at the Del Mar fairgrounds last year was ended by a federal judge’s injunction.

SB 281 has faced a long and shaky history of delays, amendments, and seemingly endless votes. With the Cow Palace closure part now out and a fair amount of support behind the new bill, SB 281 goes into a third reading and a Senate vote in the coming months.

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