Both sides of the gun control debate will be present outside the Saratoga Springs City Center today while a gun show is under way inside.
“We are hoping for a peaceful, safe event,” said Chief Christopher Cole of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
Police have met with the five organizations that have filed public demonstration applications with the city to be present outside the City Center on Broadway.
Two of the organizations are opposed to the gun show, one is conducting a “silent vigil,” and two organizations are supporting the show and the constitutional right to own firearms.
The list of speakers for MoveOn.org’s “speak-out on ending gun violence” includes Albany County District Attorney David Soares, Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, and the Rev. Jay Ekman of the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church.
Local residents urged the City Center Authority this week to cancel the NEACA Inc. arms fair that will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Susan Steer of Saratoga Springs and others said the gun show should be canceled out of respect for the 20 children and six adults killed Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.
The authority ruled that a contract had been signed and the show would go on as planned.
“While we may disagree about the extent of rights granted under the Second Constitutional Amendment, there is no denying that something must be done now to halt mass killings like Sandy Hook and the daily carnage in our inner communities,” said Susan Weber of Albany, a regional organizer for MoveOn.org.
The Speakout on Ending Gun Violence will be at 2:15 p.m. today after a silent vigil by the Saratoga Peace Alliance. Saratoga Peace Alliance organizers say they are not demonstrating against the show but would like to start a dialogue about ending gun violence.
David and Cathy Petronis of Mechanicville, who own New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates, have agreed to honor a recent resolution by the Saratoga Springs City Council and will not sell or display the military-style, semi-automatic weapons like the one used to kill 20 young children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Charlie Samuels of Saratogians for Gun Safety and others from his group were making large angels Friday that will be part of an audio-visual display in opposition to the gun show. Samuels was one of those urging that the gun show be canceled and he now plans to recognize those people killed by gun violence through his organization’s angel display.
On the other side of the debate, local members of a national organization called The Campaign for Liberty will be carrying posters in support of the gun show and the constitutional right to own and bear arms.
Chief Cole said a second, smaller organization supporting the arms show also will be outside the City Center today.
Cole said he and other members of the Police Department have talked to representatives of all the organizations and they have been cooperative and promise to conduct peaceful demonstrations.
“We’ve had very good conversations with each of these groups,” he said.
Cole said the department will have additional patrols on duty at and near the City Center today, in part to watch for private gun sales outside the show. “We’ve been planning for this all week,” he said.
Additional private security personnel will be on duty inside the City Center, at the organizers’ expense.