Gun enthusiasts flocked to the Saratoga Springs City Center on Saturday and Sunday for what could be the final time.
The building was lined with rows of tables covered with guns, knives, holsters, ammunition, antiques and more for the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates gun show.
The City Center has hosted the organization’s gun show for 32 years, but after opposition from local politicians, leaders from NEACA and the venue have been unable to agree on dates for future shows. Gun shows have typically been held a few times per year since the 1980s, drawing a couple thousand people to the center per weekend. However, they’ve been subject to protest lately, with the most recent resistance coming in the wake of the massacre in June at an Orlando nightclub.
“It’s like you’re building a store for 32 years, and all of a sudden somebody says, ‘You can’t have that anymore,’” said Cathy Petronis, who runs the show with her husband, David. “It’s our livelihood.”
David Petronis has said no dates are available at the City Center beyond this past weekend. An alternative area location for the show is a possibility, but has not been determined.
In June, the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee called for the City Council to support a gun show prohibition. Officials said they didn’t believe gun shows were an appropriate use for a public building like the City Center, and cited safety concerns.
Those who purchase firearms at gun shows in New York state are subject to background checks. Cathy Petronis said there have been no incidents, such as injuries or accidental discharges, at the show in the 32 years it’s been coming to the City Center.
Frustration with the recent developments was widespread among attendees and exhibitors at the event.
Paul Adams, who has made the trip down to Saratoga Springs from Cambridge for almost 30 years, said he’ll miss the show, where he typically buys and sells guns that he uses for target practice and hunting.
“They’re not hurting anybody here,” Adams said.
In an effort to save the relationship between the City Center and the NEACA show, State Senator Kathy Marchione is sponsoring a petition to urge the venue to allow the gun show back in the future. Volunteers said Sunday the petition garnered plenty of support during the weekend.
Politics seeped into the event, with “Make America Great Again” shirts, flags and stickers available for purchase. One table featured a pro-Donald Trump card side-by-side with a card that showed Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, a Democrat, opposing the gun show. One man walked through the rows of tables Sunday sporting a “Hillary for Prison” shirt.
A banner with an image of Marchione firing a pistol hung over a table where attendees could sign the petition. The document is also available on her website.
Gerard Moser, one of two Republican candidates vying to get on the ballot in the 113th Assembly District, made an appearance Sunday at the show, and had a table with pro-Second Amendment handouts next to Marchione’s. Moser, of Malta, is running against Chris Boyark in a primary to challenge incumbent Democrat Carrie Woerner.
In addition, a handout was available near the entrance that included a message from Cathy and Dave Petronis. They urged people to vote in November for Republicans, and said a vote for anybody but Donald Trump “is a vote for Hillary and the demise of your Second Amendment and possibly all gun shows.”
The letter noted that organizers are seeking an alternative venue in the area to replace the City Center.
In the meantime, those who regularly attend the gun show said there will be a ripple effect for business owners.
Paul Ackermann, owner of Ackermann Arms, based in Rifton, said he believes the push to end the gun show at the City Center came from a handful of politically motivated people, not the larger community.
The event is a source of camaraderie and friendship for regular arms dealers and show attendees, Ackermann said.
“It’s a real slap in the face,” he said. “It’s screwing my small business over.”
Ackermann, who sells antiques and weapons used in reenactments, said without the Saratoga Springs event, he expects to lose about 20 percent of his annual show revenue.
He said he believes local businesses and hotels will face a loss of income when people who come to town just for the gun show stop frequenting the area, something he isn’t sure officials thought about when supporting the resolution in June.
Ackermann called the final day of possibly the final show at the City Center “bittersweet.”
“It’s the end of an era,” he said. “It’s a real crying shame.”