A last-ditch effort to convince the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority to cancel this weekend’s firearms show was unsuccessful Wednesday.
The authority ruled the NEACA Inc. arms fair will be held Saturday and Sunday at the City Center, even though some other gun shows in New York and nearby states have been canceled out of respect for the 20 young children and six adults massacred in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
Stories about the opposition to the Saratoga Springs gun show in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings have been published across the nation and in some foreign countries in recent days. Opponents of the arms fair said it appeared the six authority members had made up their minds about the issue before the start of Wednesday morning’s meeting.
More than 50 people attended the meeting, about 20 of them to ask that the authority cancel the upcoming show in respect for the recent tragedy in Newtown. Only one person spoke in favor of holding the show.
“We were shocked,” said Susan Steer of Saratoga Springs, who is leading opposition to the gun show.
She said as soon as everyone had finished speaking, authority Chairman Joseph Dalton got up and read a statement that the gun show would be held.
“He didn’t address the issues raised,” Steer said.
Dalton did say, however, that the authority will review its event scheduling, including future gun shows planned this year at the City Center at Broadway and Ellsworth Jones Place in downtown Saratoga Springs.
“We will be reviewing all our booking policies,” he said.
New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates, with headquarters in Mechanicville, is planning three more firearms shows in Saratoga Springs this year. The next is planned in March.
Dalton said the authority will be looking at new gun control legislation being proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that could affect the authority’s future decisions regarding gun shows.
NEACA Inc. has agreed to honor a recent Saratoga Springs City Council resolution that military-style, semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the Newtown killings not be displayed or sold by vendors at this weekend’s show. Large-capacity ammunition magazines also will not be displayed or sold, according to the city resolution.
Mark Baker, president of the City Center, and city Police Chief Christopher Cole have discussed public safety around the City Center on Saturday and Sunday.
Three organizations have applied for public demonstration permits for the gun show. Cole said he met with representatives of the Saratoga Peace Alliance and MoveOn.org, a political action organization with a local chapter.
“Both groups were very good about wanting to work with us,” he said. “Our goal is to have things go smoothly.”
Linda LeTendre of the Saratoga Peace Alliance stressed that her group is not holding a demonstration in opposition to the gun show. She said the alliance will instead hold a “silent vigil” and seek a dialogue to discuss healing in wake of the Newtown tragedy and how people can “work together to end gun violence.”
“We support responsible gun ownership,” LeTendre said.
The third organization seeking a public demonstration permit is Saratogians For Gun Safety. Charlie Samuels, a local photographer, artist and skateboard enthusiast, said his group is planning an “audio-visual demonstration” that will include drawings of angels representing people who have lost their lives to gun violence.
David Petronis, who owns NEACA Inc. with his wife, Cathy, said Wednesday that just as he has a legal right to stage the arms fair at the City Center, the people demonstrating have a legal right to demonstrate.
“The silent majority does not demonstrate,” he said.
“We are the God fearing, the flag-bearing, the front-line warriors, the silent majority, veterans of war, police and firefighters,” Petronis said in a statement. “And what you can do is come and support our — rather your — show. Because that is what this is all about — them trying again to steal a little piece of freedom from our grasp,” he wrote.
Steer, a maternity nurse at Saratoga Hospital, also made a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting of the Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education, asking the board to oppose the gun show. School board member Frank Palumbo said at the meeting in the Lake Avenue Elementary School he didn’t like the idea of a gun show being held in the city, just several blocks from the Lake Avenue school.
“We need to take a stand, take a leadership role,” he said.
The board didn’t take any action Tuesday but agreed to place the issue on the agenda for the board’s Jan. 24 meeting. Superintendent Michael Piccirillo said board members will discuss whether they want to pass “a non-binding resolution” asking that gun shows not be held Saratoga Springs.
The board also asked district officials to seek legal advice on such a resolution and how it might be worded.