In pushing a district-focused bill, Senator Scott Wiener (D-11, San Francisco) today presented SB 221 to the Senate Public Safety Committee for concurrence in Assembly amendments to prohibit the sale of firearms and ammunition at the Cow Palace.
The Cow Palace is a vast, state-owned facility located in Daly City within Agricultural District 1-A, which includes the county of San Mateo and the City and County of San Francisco. Historically a structure that housed animal livestock expositions, the Cow Palace has since served as a venue for various large events, including hosting gun shows four to five times per year. The District 1-A has contracted to the tune of about $150,000 to host the gun shows through 2019. This bill would not interfere with the current contract, but would prohibit contracts with gun shows after January 1, 2020, setting a precedent for who the Cow Palace could contract with in future years.
In highlighting this point, the Western Fairs Association, urged the committee to vote “no,” explaining that since the Cow Palace is a District Agricultural Association (DAA), it receives very little financial support in the State Budget and therefore has to supplement funding with its own revenue through shows. In prohibiting the gun shows, the bill would not only prohibit the legal venue for the sale of firearms and ammunition, but would take away essential funding and dictate future contracts. Senator Wiener told the California Globe that the lost contract revenue would be “easily replaceable.”
Other opposition from the gun lobby focused on the constitutional rights to bear arms. This argument was rebuffed by the author, who highlighted that his bill doesn’t take away the right to purchase, but rather focuses on limiting access specifically at the Cow Palace where students and mothers have protested the gun shows.
Senator Wiener said the “people in the district want it to end.” He also pointed out that the local governments in San Francisco, Daly City and San Mateo County have “unanimously” adopted local ordinances banning gun shows in the city and counties and have continuously voiced their opposition to the gun shows at the Cow Palace, but since the Cow Palace is state-owned, local bodies cannot regulate or ban the shows – state legislation can provide the only fix.
The bill passed on a partisan vote and will next be presented to the full Senate and, if passed, head to the Governor. This will not be new subject matter for the Governor, who has vetoed a similar prior attempt. SB 475, introduced in 2013, by Wiener’s predecessor, Senator Leno, would have permitted gun shows at Cow Palace only with prior approval by resolution adopted by both the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Mateo and the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco. Governor Brown vetoed the bill because of this requirement stating, “I encourage all [DAAs] to work with their local communities when determining their operations and events. [SB 475], however, totally pre-empts the Board of Directors of the Cow Palace from exercising its contracting authority whenever a gun show is involved. I prefer to leave these decisions to the sound discretion of the Board.”
Similarly, Senator Leno had also previously authored SB 585, introduced in 2009, which would have prohibited gun shows at Cow Palace. SB 585 would have additionally required the Cow Palace DAA to replace gun show events with non-firearm or non-ammunition related events. In his veto message, then Governor Schwarzenegger stated that SB 585 would “set a confusing precedent at the state level by statutorily prohibiting one [DAA] from selling firearms and ammunition, a legal and regulated activity, while allowing other DAAs to continue to do so. In addition, [SB 585] would result in decreased state and local tax revenues by restricting events at the Cow Palace.”