LA County Settles Gun Show Suits With $1.6 Million
Los Angeles County, CA, has agreed to pay the organizers of the nations largest gun show $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits brought by the shows organizers, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Stemming from a 1999 county ordinance barring sales of guns or ammunition on county property, the lawsuits alleged that the ban violated the First Amendment and that the county held secret meetings related to the ban.
The settlement ends a nearly four-year battle between the county and the operators of the Great Western Gun Show, which was formerly held at the Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pamona. It also brings to $4.3 million the amount the county has paid or agreed to pay to pursue the ban, not counting legal fees.
Both sides sounded more relieved than pleased with the settlement announced on Feb. 13.
Im not completely happy with it, but its a good business decision, said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who introduced the ordinance. Im pleased that our right to determine what gets sold on county property has been affirmed. Im not pleased that we had to shell out this kind of money.
The county agreed in 2000 to give as much as $2.7 million in rental credits to the company that manages the fairgrounds as compensation for lost revenue from the gun show, which drew as many as 50,000 people in a single weekend in 1999. That arrangement was the focus of the second lawsuit.
Chad Seger, general manager of the Great Western Gun Show, said he was confident that the county ordinance improperly targeted a show that has always been about military history and the Wild West, but that after spending more than $1 million in legal fees, economic considerations had won out.
L.A. County made it very clear that even if we won in court, theyd keep passing ordinances, so we decided to cut our losses, Seger said.
Great Western sued the county to block enforcement of the ban in 1999, seeking $5 million in damages, and sued again in 2000, alleging that the county secretly arranged to pay the fairground operators to force the show from the county fairgrounds.
A complicated mix of federal and state legal issues, the cases have since pinballed between California and federal courts.
Although the ordinance banning sales of guns or ammunition on county property will stand, Michael F. Wright, the Great Western Gun Shows attorney, said it would do nothing to stem gun sales on private property or other property not owned by the county.
What theyve done is remove a gun show away from the county fairgrounds and leave the rest of the world open to that gun show, Wright said. It makes no sense to say that on one piece of property you cant do things that are otherwise lawful and that you can do anywhere else in the county.
The Great Western Gun Shows last event in the county was held in December 1999, and the organization hasnt held another since it lost money on a Las Vegas show in May 2000.
Seger said the show will go on. Were looking at Dallas, TX, as a new venue, he said. Were never going to be as big as we were (in Los Angeles County), but were going to attempt to make it a more focused show.