The Saratoga Springs City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to urge that military-style semiautomatic rifles like the one used to kill 20 children last month in Newtown, Conn., not be displayed or sold at an upcoming gun show.
The NEACA Inc. arms fair is scheduled for Jan. 12-13 at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway.
Susan Steer of Saratoga Springs and others in the standing-room-only audience urged the council to ask the City Center Authority to cancel the gun show in recognition of the tragic shootings Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Steer told the City Council that she has more than 1,240 signatures on an online petition asking the gun show be canceled because the community is “shocked and horrified” by the killings.
But as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1,500 people had signed an online petition urging that the Saratoga gun show go on as planned. The petition being circulated by gun owner Robert LeClair of Hudson Falls describes Steer as a “Saratoga soccer mom with half-baked concepts of firearms and gun control.”
Steer said it appeared those signing the pro-gun show petition were generally from outside the Saratoga County region, while those signing her petition were mostly local residents, at least half of them living in Saratoga Springs.
City center officials and David and Cathy Petronis of Mechanicville, who operate the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates, say the show will go on as planned. But the organizers say they will ask exhibitors not to bring military-style “AR-15s or look-alikes to the show” or at least “display them as under-table stock or in a box on the table.”
The City Council resolution, as amended by city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan to make the wording stronger, urged that arms fair exhibitors “not exhibit or sell” the military-style, semi-automatic weapons or high capacity ammunition magazines of the type used in Newtown.
Steer said after the meeting she still wants the gun fair canceled but appreciated the stronger wording in the council’s resolution.
City Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen’s original resolution asked the exhibitors at the gun show to “refrain from exhibiting” the assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines at the show.
Mayor Scott Johnson, who voted for the resolution, said the City Center Authority is a separate legal entity from the city and the city council has no control over what events occur in the City Center.
“We as a city council can’t prohibit the sale of these weapons,” he said.
William McTygue, a former city public works administrator, urged the council to at least go on record asking gun show organizers to ban the military-style assault weapons from the show.
“Saratoga Springs should not be a showcase for these kinds of weapons,” he said.
Some of the dozen people speaking during the public comment period at the council meeting said the city needs to have a community discussion about whether it should allow such gun shows to be held in Saratoga Springs in the future.
NEACA gun shows have been held four times each year in the city since the mid-1980s.