In a significant legal development, a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Mark Holcomb, has ruled against California’s ban on gun shows at county fairs. The judge’s decision contends that the state is infringing upon the rights of both sellers and potential buyers by prohibiting firearm transactions that could otherwise be conducted in any licensed gun shop.
The ban, originally implemented through two state laws authored by Democratic state Senator Dave Min, had barred gun shows at the Orange County Fair, with the first law effective from January 2022. The second law, which came into effect this year, extended the prohibition to county fairgrounds situated on state-owned land.
Judge Holcomb’s ruling temporarily halts the enforcement of these state laws, emphasizing the importance of lawful firearm sales at gun shows. He stated, “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.”
Senator Min expressed his shock at the injunction and anticipated that it would be challenged and overturned in the appeals process. He emphasized the significance of the ban on gun shows at state properties, particularly at iconic fairgrounds, as a crucial measure in curbing the unchecked proliferation of firearms, including “ghost guns” that evade essential background checks and traceability.
While gun shows attract thousands of potential buyers to local fairgrounds, California law requires the actual purchase of a firearm to be completed at a licensed gun store after a 10-day waiting period and a background check. Notably, this specific aspect of the law remains unaffected by the judge’s ruling.
Advocates of gun control have argued that gun shows pose risks by making firearms appealing to children and facilitating “straw purchases” for individuals ineligible to possess firearms. Another state law, not impacted by the recent decision, had already prohibited gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County since 2020.
Challengers to the statewide ban on gun shows included the California Rifle & Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Chuck Michel, the president of the Rifle & Pistol Association, contended that politicians attempting to eliminate the “gun culture” are banning gatherings at gun shows, where individuals can learn about guns, gun safety, and gun-control politics.
Attorney General Rob Bonta, who defended the laws in court, may choose to appeal Judge Holcomb’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His office requested a stay to maintain the law’s effect for at least 10 days, but the judge declined the request, citing a lack of demonstrated likelihood of a successful appeal or any immediate danger to the public from gun shows, which typically require months of scheduling in advance.