Wednesday’s unanimous vote by the Saratoga Springs City Council urging promoters of next weekend’s City Center gun show not to display or sell the type of semiautomatic weapons used in last month’s Newtown shootings was political window dressing and little more. The measure had no legal teeth, leaving gun dealers free to decide for themselves whether to forgo a sale or two at the risk of further offending public sensibilities still smarting over the Connecticut school tragedy. Lo and behold, the show’s organizers said yesterday they would comply, and one can only hope that all the show’s dealers honor the commitment.
To a certain extent, we can understand the council’s weak-kneed approach: The assault weapons and large-volume clips favored by mass murderers are still legal in Saratoga Springs after a criminal background check, and short of banning them throughout the city, it would have been hard singling out this gun show, which is held in the city four times a year.
Still, a ban could have been adopted. (The city of Albany has one, and yet it still managed to land a gun show at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center later this month. The state has one, too, but loopholes make it virtually unenforceable.) A ban would have sent a stern message to gun enthusiasts, instead of this wimpy one, that the days of legal assault weapon sales may be numbered.
Indeed, gun collectors fearing a national ban have been buying these guns in record numbers since the Sandy Hook killings, and it’s hard to believe that there won’t be demand for them at next weekend’s show. Supply, at least of new rifles, might be a different story, though, as retailers have reportedly been running out of them.
Indeed, we’d prefer a comprehensive national ban because that’s the best way to get a handle on guns that have little purpose other than killing people quickly and in large numbers. And just because the person who buys one at a gun show (or through any other legal means) may be law-abiding, sane and passes a proper background check doesn’t mean the weapon won’t land in the wrong hands — either via private sale or burglary — at some point in the future. That’s why a comprehensive ban is necessary.
Saratoga Springs’ City Council missed an opportunity to show the rest of the state and country the way.