skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Del Mar Gun Show Draws Record Crowd

Evening Edition

More than 12,000 people descended on the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the Gun Show this weekend - the biggest turn out ever. KPBS North County bureau chief Alison St John says a staggering amount of ammunition was snapped up and hauled away.

The lines to get into the Del Mar gun show stretched on and on, and freeway exits into Del Mar backed up for hours.

But satisfied customers leaving the gun show carried away heavy back packs, while others needed dollies to cart away piles of boxes of ammunition. Well-muscled men had trouble heaving boxes of bullets onto the trolley that sped them back to the parking lot, where their pick-ups were waiting.

Aired 3/11/13 on KPBS News.

More than 12,000 people descended on Del Mar for the gun show over the weekend. It was the biggest turn out ever. A staggering amount of ammunition was snapped up and hauled away.

Lifting boxes of ammunition bought at the Del Mar Gun Show, March 9th 2013

Tom Gildesleeve, a young Marine who hailed from Northern Maine, grew up with guns.

“I had my first weapon before I was one year old,” he said, “ It was a :22 long rifle. I didn’t shoot it until I was three, but my parents taught me well.”

Gildesleeve said he can’t find the ammo he needs for target practice in the store any more, and he doesn’t feel comfortable mail ordering it into California in case it makes him a target of suspicion.

“They want to take my guns and my ammo from me,” he said.” What am I supposed to do but stock pile it?”

Jim Van Vleck of Coronado, a retired merchant Marine, said he got in line about 7:30 a.m., but met others who’d been in line since before dawn.

“California’s really cracking down on ammunition,” he said. “You can’t buy them in stores. I just ordered an M14, a mini 14, can’t get ammo for it yet. I just got my first shotgun, there are shotgun shells - 9 mm- you can’t hardly get it anywhere, you get to the stores and they’re sold out in a matter of hours.”

A bill to require background checks for ammunition in California was struck down by the courts in January as unconstitutionally vague, days before it went into effect.

Box of bullets, Del Mar Gun Show, March 9th 2013

But a Field Poll released in February shows 75 percent of Californians favor background checks for people buying ammunition.

Standing a little to one side, John Rippo, a former gun dealer, stood watching the crowd, leaning on his metal cane.

“This is different, “ he said. “I’ve never seen people come to a show like this to cart away dollies of ammunition. Just a moment ago there was a fellow who walked away with six wooden crates of 762 by 39 millimeter ball, the kind of cartridge that commonly fit in AK 47, that’s 1,000 rounds per crate. Must have weighed as much as a refrigerator.”

Rippo is no stranger to gun culture, in fact he is part of it.

“I grew up with them, I grew up coming to this show for 30 plus years,” he said “I was in the trade 17 years. This is different from what it was. The culture has morphed, it’s changed. “

He blames the NRA for stirring up paranoia for its own political purposes.

“Mongering fear is a bad thing to do,” he said, “and some of the people who are here today, I would argue, are victims of that fear.”

Near the entrance to the show, a man, who would only give his name as Bill, hands out lime green leaflets. They advertise “Build Parties,” where people can put together their own AR 14s.

“They do it themselves and have the experience and chose the color and the forging that they want,” he said. “It’s only 80 percent complete, which is what the government allows you to do.”

That’s a short step away from skirting the law, Rippo said.

“If you make your own,” he said, “you run the risk of severe federal penalties and state penalties if you do not register those pieces of machinery.”

The event was run by Crossroads of the West, and though the site is on state property, media with cameras were not allowed into the event. Adam Day, president of the Fair Board, said that didn’t sit well with him but there was nothing he could do.

“It is frustrating to me,” he said. “It is a public facility and we’re public officials. I try to work with the operator, but unfortunately we have a contract, and its critical. We can’t have cameras or videos allowed inside.”

The reason given, Day said, is to protect the identity of undercover law enforcement officers working inside.

Carrying home the ammo, Del Mar Gun Show, March 9th 2013

There was plenty of opportunity to talk to people waiting in the long lines to the ticket booth. For some, the Del Mar gun show is a family affair, and many came with babies in strollers or held up toddlers to be admired.

Bud Emerson, a founding member of the group, “Stop The Del Mar Gun Shows,” finds this offensive.

“The message that we send to our kids is that guns are fun - it’s a Show,” Emerson said. “The statistics are very clear. The Center for Disease Control counted over 6,000 kids killed in 2010. That’s seven kids between one and 19 every single day. The culture has got to change. Guns are not fun, they’re lethal weapons.”

Emerson said the Del Mar Fairground is a family focused venue. He wants the gun shows there stopped.

The fair hosts five gun shows a year. One revenue producing aspect of the event for the fair is the parking, which, at $10 a vehicle, raises tens of thousands. But Fair Board President Adam Day said the contract to rent the space to Crossroads isn’t vital to their annual budget. He said it’s not about the money, but it is about rights.

“We generate roughly $300,000 a year from these five gun shows,” he said. “Our annual budget is over $90 million. It’s quite insignificant in fact, but as a public facility we have to allow anyone who has a legal right to operate to hold their shows here.”

Emerson sees it differently.

“It’s not about gun rights,” he said. "It’s about the glorification of guns. I think we’re all implicated when it’s on public property.”

California legislation introduced this month would prohibit gun shows at San Francisco’s state fairground, the Cow Palace, unless it has the local approval of their county supervisors.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'Joe6Pack'

Joe6Pack | March 11, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Naturally, the article ends with the usual uninformed Leftist slant. Better to terminate the kiddies with vaccinations, abortions and drones. That's much easier for the reading audience.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'mclanea'

mclanea | March 11, 2013 at 9:04 a.m. ― 4 years ago

I'm all for free flow of commerce. But it's time to regulate the transmission of ammunition and guns, the way we do prescription drugs.

Gun manufacturers are making money hand over fist by simply scaring people.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | March 11, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. ― 4 years ago

All the negative publicity drew a large crowd

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | March 11, 2013 at 9:33 a.m. ― 4 years ago

All those guns in one place and no one got shot or killed? How is that possible?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | March 11, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. ― 4 years ago

The media focus on guns and bullets might have drawn large crowds, but there was nothing said about vendors who sell collectibles at the show whose customers were discouraged by the picketers, NRA loyalists and their corporate handlers, and all the focus on the weapon culture. It's an interesting show that has a range of items available but you wouldn't know it from this coverage.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Anon44'

Anon44 | March 11, 2013 at 10:43 a.m. ― 4 years ago

My Honey bought used books while I got custom-fit ear plugs made (so I couldn't hear his nightly snoring). Not everyone buys ammo. Or guns.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 11, 2013 at 11:08 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Very encouraging. Very encouraging indeed. I am glad all the recent idiocy from the left has encouraged people to become more aware of their second amendment right to bear arms, that shall not be infringed.

The second amendment doesn't say we need guns that are appropriate for hunting, it says we may arm ourselves. I am responsible, I will never go on a shooting rampage, so I should be able to own whatever gun I want.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 11, 2013 at 11:25 a.m. ― 4 years ago


( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 11, 2013 at 11:28 a.m. ― 4 years ago

McLanea, glad there's still a few level-headed people left like you and I.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | March 11, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. ― 4 years ago

The leftists would prefer to keep their heads in the sand and pretend that limiting guns and/or ammo will somehow make it harder for criminals to commit violent acts. We should not work towards achieving a false sense of security. Mexico has extremely tight gun control laws, and we see how safe it is there. Street gangs in the US have AK 47s, fully automatic machine guns, hand grenades, etc. Psychopaths and criminals can get any type of weapon whenever they want, wherever they want. Gun control simply does not work on those who are intent on violence. However, gun control does work to create a nation of citizens who are unable to protect themselves and rise up against a tyrannical government.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'tomtom'

tomtom | March 11, 2013 at 5:39 p.m. ― 4 years ago

drove by there mid-day Sunday. parking lot was 1/2 full.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Sven79'

Sven79 | March 12, 2013 at 7:38 a.m. ― 4 years ago

mclanea: Really? Regulate guns and ammo? Really? Like there aren't already enough laws regulating guns and ammo? Especially in California? I'm blown away by that comment, and even more blown away that someone else considered that "level-headed." Simply amazing!

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 12, 2013 at 8:54 a.m. ― 4 years ago

Sven79 - warning: You are trying to be logical with a leftist. In my experience they are incapable of rational, logical thought. They seem to use emotions foremost in their decision making.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | March 12, 2013 at 12:06 p.m. ― 4 years ago


How logical is it to continue basing our gun laws on an Amendment that was a defense mechanism against the King of England? At the very least, we have to admit the times have changed.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 12, 2013 at 1:53 p.m. ― 4 years ago

joe6Pack: ".... the usual uninformed Leftist slant"
Alex_Grebenshchikov: "The leftists would prefer to keep their heads in the sand ......"
JeanMarc: " You are trying to be logical with a leftist"

Is this really a left or right issue?

A recent gallup poll reveals this about how Americans feel about gun laws:

Make more strict: 58%
Leave as they are: 34%
Make less strict: 6%

It seems like we are a nation of "Leftists" eh?

The fact is we as a nation are changing in many respects.

Our population pyramid, our ehtnic make-uup, our religious make-up, etc., and many things are changing.

Opinions regarding religious/atheist tolerance, same-sex equality, immigrant rights, and yes GUN RIGHTS are all changing.

Some might look at this as a positive and some as a negative, but it is simply fact.

It seems like the more radicalized gun adovcates know society is changing, so they are resorting to bullying and denial.

Here is a prime example - some nutjob sending threats and racial slurs to a lawmaker in Colorado simply for introducing gun legislation.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 12, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Peking_duck you would have to break that survey down. "Make more strict" is extremely broad. Better background checks? Hey, even I support that! Restrictions on weapons I may own, or magazine capacity? NO! I do NOT support that, and I bet a large portion of the country feels the same way.

DeLaRick the writers of the constitution wanted to make sure the government would never have the ability to become oppressive and tyrannical. Look how much this country has changed in the last 100 years. We did not even have income tax 100 years ago. The government was minimal. Slowly, all of our civil rights are being eroded way. The government is taking on the role of parent, trying to manage our health, or retirement, our personal safety, etc. We are becoming a nation of pathetic mollycoddles.

Look at the events leading up to dictatorships in the history of the world. They parallel what is happening in the USA today, with erosion of privacy, censorship of dissidents, growth of an overbearing government, restrictions on and confiscation of weapons from the people.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Marine101'

Marine101 | March 13, 2013 at 7:49 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Alex_Grebenshchikov I agree 100%. If you think about it anything can be used as a weapon and I'm sure many have been used. I once saw a lady come into the ER with a fork sticking out of her arm. If they want to limit gun rights then they need to also limit the amount of forks, spoons, knives, vehicles, toys, couches... pretty much everything needs to be limited. I mean if they really want to get technical they should look into banning cars too since people tend to hit each other and kill one another with them. But, alas only they care about their personal agenda and not about looking at facts.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Somyunguy'

Somyunguy | March 24, 2013 at 2:37 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Before this push to take away something protected by our constitution, like free speech, there existed a status quo. Gun enthusiasts, home defenders, collectors, competition shooters, and just normal people exercising their right could buy and sell legal products. New proposed legislation has created panic, driving everyone and anyone who ever considered owning a firearm to rush and buy guns, drive up prices, limiting availability of both guns and ammo. The end result? Short run, Everyone wins. Gun dealers/sporting good stores - more profit, liberals - difficult to buy weapons and ammo, conservatives - better armed society. The long run, if new legislation is defeated, things will go back to normal. If it passes, I predict civil disobedience, possible civil war, as government tries to confiscate legally purchased guns, driving the whole gun industry underground. Is that where it belongs? How does one regulate and do background checks the black market?

( | suggest removal )