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The Cow Palace of San Francisco
The Cow Palace of San Francisco. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Decades Long Attempt to Ban Gun Shows at San Francisco Cow Palace… Back Again

All previous legislation banning gun shows at Cow Palace vetoed

By Katy Grimes, January 27, 2020 7:41 pm

The high gang activity and murder rate of the South San Francisco Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood has never been tied to gun sales at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show.


Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued a statement Monday about his bill to ban gun shows at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, passing the Senate.

The bill originally passed in 2018, but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, along with several previous legislative efforts to kill the gun show business in Sac Francisco.

State Senator Scott D. Wiener. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“For decades, despite broad local opposition to gun shows, and various legislative efforts to end them, the Cow Palace Board of Directors has continued to allow gun shows at the venue. In 2019, Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Ting introduced SB 281 to end the gun shows and also to transfer the Cow Palace’s land to local control. After introduction and advancement of that legislation, the Cow Palace Board of Directors finally became responsive and ended the gun shows. Based on that decision, as well as strong new appointments to the Board by the Governor, Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Ting decided to limit the bill to a permanent gun show ban. The NRA is trying to bully the Cow Palace to reinstate the gun shows, and the Cow Palace has seriously considered doing so, which is why a permanent ban is needed.”

The Cow Palace is owned by the state and managed by the Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions.

“I am thrilled that SB 281 passed the Senate today,” Sen. Wiener said. “Its passage demonstrates the strong commitment to ending the epidemic of gun violence both in California and in our country. Children should not have to go to school in fear of a shooting. People should not have to be afraid of going to movie theaters, festivals, and other public places due to the prevalence of guns and mass shootings.”

“I authored SB 281 because it’s time we ban, once and for all, gun shows at the Cow Palace. The Cow Palace sits in the heart of the Bay Area, and there is a long-held consensus in the community that we must end these gun shows permanently. We can’t give into pressure from the NRA and the work they’re doing to reinstate the gun shows. That’s why we need to pass this permanent statutory ban on the Cow Palace gun shows. This is a great step towards that effort and I hope to see SB 281 pass the Assembly later this year.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting, Weiner’s Co-Author, weighed in as well:

“The community near the Cow Palace has fought long and hard to prohibit gun shows in their neighborhood. Enshrining into law a ban on such shows would give nearby residents peace of mind, and I look forward to championing the bill in the Assembly after today’s approval in the Senate.”

Don’t take your guns to San Fran town

This isn’t the first go-around San Francisco Democrats have had with gun shows at the Cow Palace. In fact, it’s about the fourth or fifth legislative attempt.

In 2013, I covered the latest attempt at that time to ban guns and gun shows at the Cow Palace. Democrats’ claims of “community values” and the need to reduce crime, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, carried the banner to get the Crossroads of the West gun show tossed out of the Cow Palace in South San Francisco.

Former state Senator Mark Leno. (Wikipedia)

It appears Sen. Wiener picked up where Sen. Leno left off…who picked up where Assemblywoman Jacqui Speier left off…

Despite the “values” claim, or that crime is linked to the gun show, the real goal has always been to give Leno and other San Francisco Democrats a chance to demonstrate their disdain for gun rights by running one of the last remaining legal gun venues out of town.

Leno’s 2013  SB 475 would have banned the gun show outright… if Gov. Jerry Brown hadn’t vetoed it.

Leno declared that the community surrounding the Cow Palace in South San Francisco did not want the gun shows. Here is the succinct version of his argument from his website:

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored. Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. We must give local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

The Cow Palace is located in Bayview-Hunters Point, which has historically been overrun with gangs and drugs since the 1970s, and has a high rate of murder, violent crime and poverty. Though it has only a small fraction of San Francisco’s entire population, the area has 40 percent of San Francisco’s homicides, I wrote in 2013.

Yet as testimony has consistently shown at numerous hearings, the high murder rate has never been tied to gun sales at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show. In fact, there have been no reported incidents involving gun violence at the gun show.

And the idea that the Cow Palace’s booking decisions should reflect “community values” has always triggered snickering given that the annual Erotic Exotic Ball and the Cannabis Festival historically were also held annually at the venue.

Back in 2013, then-Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) pointed out in a hearing that people pay to get into the gun show at the Cow Palace and wait in line for two hours, so obviously there is a demand for the gun show.

“You want it in your front yard? I’ll support that,” Leno retorted. “The community doesn’t want it. I represent the values of the neighborhood.”

Leno said the parents of a nearby middle school signed a petition… about the gun show or the Erotic Exotic Ball and it’s and “all-inclusive BDSM Halloween event” with all of the “tools, tactics, and techniques” for play, or the Cannabis Festival with potheads forgetting where they parked their cars? Leno never made a connection between the gun show and the violent crime in the area, and we don’t know what the petition was really for.

An ongoing crusade by anti-gun San Francisco pols

Leno’s and Wiener’s crusade is nothing new. For two decades, Democrats have wanted to boot the gun show out of the Cow Palace, including offering several bills over the years which failed to win passage. Each of the measures were identical to legislation by former state Sen. Jackie Speier, a Democratic lawmaker from Hillsborough. Speier’s bill was introduced in 2004 but failed to get through the Assembly.

Speier, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-District Attorney Kamala Harris were all supportive of banning the gun show from the Cow Palace. “Gun shows at the Cow Palace threaten our most vulnerable residents,” Newsom said in 2007, Inside Bay Area reported.

If that were the case, then there would have been crime victims coming forward to back Leno’s legislation, and Wiener’s legislation, and testifying at the hearing. There were not.

Democrats’ anti-gun show rhetoric may be in keeping with anti-gun ideology, but it isn’t backed up by reality.

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