Citizens on both sides of the gun control debate have two opportunities to voice their thoughts this weekend, with a gun show planned in Saratoga Springs and a Second Amendment rally slated for Schoharie.
The “We the People Rally” planned for 1 p.m. Saturday will surround Lassell Hall, a historic home owned by the Schoharie chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The gun show will run Saturday and Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. both days, and is expected to be a repeat of the January event that drew numerous pro- and anti-gun protesters to the city.
New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates has been holding its gun fairs for years in Saratoga Springs. But recent fatal shootings prompted Susan Steer to establish the group “Saratogians for Gun Safety,” which aims to push the annual shows away from the City Center.
“We want to not have so many guns brought into our downtown area for sale or trade at the gun show, especially at a public venue,” she said Tuesday. “We plan to demonstrate at every gun show that will be held there.”
The Saratoga Peace Alliance is planning a “silent vigil” for 10 a.m. Saturday as well, according to the group’s Facebook page.
NEACA head David Petronis said the City Center at 522 Broadway welcomed a big crowd for the January gun show and he’s expecting even more will attend Saturday’s event. He said he doesn’t think rallies outside the City Center had any effect on sales inside.
The City Center will be stocked with 250 eight-foot tables featuring new, antique, collector and investment firearms in addition to swords and knives, artwork, books, traps, pistols, gun parts, hunting accessories and other goods.
“January was absolutely fantastic. It was busy, it was quite a thing,” Petronis said.
He said the event was peaceful, and he wasn’t aware Tuesday whether there would be demonstrations like in January.
“This is normally our largest show,” he said. “I have no clue what’s to happen; I didn’t expect what was there in January.”
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said officials are expecting a crowd in downtown Schoharie on Saturday but there’s no plans for a major police presence.
Desmond, who is among numerous law enforcement officials incensed over the state’s SAFE Act being rushed into law, said police don’t want to interfere with people voicing their thoughts.
“I don’t think that people have to be surrounded by police when they’re exercising their right to assembly and free speech,” he said.
In addition to angering citizens by passing a law without public comment, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new SAFE Act has caused a rush on gun activity in rural Schoharie County, Desmond said. The law prompted numerous people to start adding pistols to their existing permits and Desmond said he had to assign an additional deputy to do pistol permit request investigations.
“I had to send another officer [to Schoharie County Court] to help them, one day a week, because they were getting so backed up,” he said.
People are also consuming law enforcement time by requesting and submitting forms to the Sheriff’s Department requesting that their gun ownership not be made public.
“We wouldn’t have to be doing this much work, I don’t feel, if we didn’t have this SAFE Act hanging over our heads,” Desmond said.
A simple Internet search for “We the People Rally” and Schoharie reveals groups far and wide are taking notice and planning to send members in hopes of surpassing attendance at a similar event in Albany earlier this year.
“We do expect a large crowd,” Desmond said.
A flier circulating about the Schoharie event calls for a peaceful and respectful rally for anybody “interested in preserving our liberties and Constitutional rights as American citizens.”
The event will include a special honor for veterans.