Efforts to limit access to guns may have had the opposite effect at the Empire State Plaza’s Convention Center on Saturday.
“The show has been an outstanding success, “ said Doug Roberts, a director of the New York State Arms Collectors Association, which is hosting a gun show this weekend at the center.
“I think people are so scared of what is going on in Washington and in Albany, they’re buying the firearm that they might not have wanted to buy until next year,” Roberts said. “The sales of firearms and ammunition have been outstanding.”
The convention center, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a vision for sweeping gun-control legislation two weeks ago, was transformed into a sportsmen and hunter heaven for this weekend’s annual show. The large space had 450 vendor tables displaying rifle scopes, ammunition, hunting clothing, books, war memorabilia, antique handguns and lots of rifles and shotguns.
The show didn’t sell any assault weapons, as usual, because the city, and now the state, has a ban on these.
Instead, Roberts said a vast majority of the guns for sale were made before 1898. People like the tradition of older guns, he said, but the attraction stems mostly from the fact that they appreciate in value.
“And you can touch and feel them,” he added.
Prominently on display were signs explaining a recent agreement the show operator’s made with the state Attorney General’s Office. This included notifying people of background check requirements, periodic police patrols of the plaza’s parking lots to prevent off-the-book sales, plus security inspecting all the guns leaving the show.
Less noticeable was a requirement that sellers tag their guns before the show and then check the weapons at the end to determine what weapons were sold and if the proper background check was done.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, who is a hunter and a vocal critic of sweeping gun control legislation passed earlier this year in New York, was at the show to browse, but was excited by a replica of a handgun used by Wyatt Earp.
He said the procedures from the Attorney General’s Office were practical and noted that most people have no issue with reasonable gun control measures like background checks. McLaughlin said the problem, which prompted him to speak out against Cuomo’s legislation, is when law abiding gun owners have their Second Amendment rights infringed.
In advance of a gun show two weeks ago in Saratoga Springs there was a vocal minority opposed to having it so close to the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, CT, where an elementary school was the site of the slaying of 20 first graders and six school staff.
There wasn’t a similar push to cancel this show, even though Cuomo was asked to weigh in on the matter during a press conference three weeks ago. He didn’t take a side, but said a contract, even one for a gun show, should be honored. He added that he understood the sentiment motivating people that wanted to cancel any gun shows.
McLaughlin said the opposition to shows like the one in Saratoga and Albany might be diminished if non-gun owners actually attended a gun show. “Try to remove the fear from it,” he said. “A lot of people are not into the gun culture ... and there is a natural fear if you’ve never been exposed to it.”
The shows are also about more than the hundreds of guns for sale, as David Harvey demonstrated with his displays of cabinets and mirrors. Formerly a weekend carpenter as a hobby, when the Glens Falls resident retired he began making projects he calls “secret woodworks.”
The secret, as Harvey demonstrated to passersby looking at a night stand he built, is the compartment in the back that a burglar might not find. There is a handle in the front that opens up to a small drawer, but in the back is a compartment without a handle, which could store valuables or a gun.
Another hideaway for a gun was a mirror on a wood frame that could be pulled apart to hide a gun. “It’s hidden in plain sight,” Harvey said proudly.
Roberts estimated that about 2,500 people had shown up to the convention center by the middle of the afternoon. He said this was a larger than usual crowd and large numbers were expected today.
“They’re church people,” Roberts said.
The show continues today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and free for children under 12 if accompanied by an adult.