Lawmaker Again Looks to Ban Gun Shows at Cow Palace With Eyes Toward a New Mixed-Use Development

The Cow Palace hosts several gun and ammunition shows a year, despite repeated efforts to ban them. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is making another attempt at banning gun shows at Daly City’s Cow Palace.

This time he’s unveiling the legislation to coincide with Valentine’s Day and the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.

Legislative efforts to ban the shows have failed four times before, including last year when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 221, co-authored by Wiener and state Sen. Phil Ting. Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2013.

The site is operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and is governed by a Board of Directors, placing it under state jurisdiction as opposed to city or county control.

Wiener introduced last year’s legislation following a mass shooting at a Texas high school that left 10 people dead. He and other opponents say the shows are inappropriate given the community’s opposition and the “epidemic of gun massacres” in the country.

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Robert Templeton, co-owner of Utah’s Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, which holds many shows at the Cow Palace, told the San Francisco Chronicle last year that attempts to ban gun shows are misguided.

He added that California's gun control laws — which are some of the strictest gun laws in the nation — do apply to the Cow Palace gun shows. For instance, buyers at a gun show must undergo a 10-day waiting period and a background check before picking up the weapon from an authorized dealer.

Crossroads has several shows scheduled at the Cow Palace this year, including one next month. Cow Palace CEO Lisa Marshall did not respond to a request for comment.

More Than Just a Gun Show Ban

This time around, Wiener is going beyond proposing just a ban on gun sales at the Cow Palace.

His proposal, SB 281, also aims to strip control of the 68-acre site from the Cow Palace Board of Directors and transfer ownership to a local Joint Powers Authority comprised of Daly City, San Francisco and San Mateo County.

This would remove the site from state jurisdiction, which has stymied previous attempts to ban gun and ammunition shows. Wiener says its past time that control of the site is taken away from the Cow Palace Board of Directors, which he says is not listening to residents.

“The Cow Palace is not living in the modern era,” Wiener said. “It’s ignoring the pleas by the local community to end the gun shows.”

The Cow Palace first opened in 1941 and was primarily used for agricultural related expositions. Over the decades, it’s hosted every thing from rock concerts and flower shows to gun expositions.

The venue is a huge cavernous structure with sprawling parking lots, and Wiener says the time is ripe to develop the land, which is near a Caltrain stop, bus service and is “directly south of one of the tightest housing markets in the world.”

Wiener envisions a mixed-use development, including affordable housing. But he says the ultimate decision on what happens to the land would be up to the local Joint Powers Authority, except for the mandatory ban on gun shows.

According to Wiener’s office, the entire state delegations from San Francisco and San Mateo counties back the bill.

Wiener says, unlike former Gov. Brown, he’s optimistic Gov. Gavin Newsom will support the gun show ban. But he doesn’t know Newsom’s position on transferring the site to local control.

Newsom’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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