Stopping gun violence takes courage — the courage to do what’s right and the courage of new ideas, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords told a group of reporters at the Saratoga Springs Arms Fair on Sunday. It was her first appearance at a gun show since she was shot during a 2011 assassination attempt outside Tucson, Ariz.
Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, toured the arms fair at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Sunday to highlight New York’s Model Gun Show Procedures, which require a background check on buyers of virtually every firearm sold at a gun show in New York state.
Developed by the state Attorney General’s office and several gun-show operators, the procedures include a process that ensures all guns brought to gun shows by private sellers are tagged so that the show’s operator can keep track of sales and make sure that a proper background check was performed.
“It’s great for Gabby and I to see a system that works well,” Kelly commented.
The couple have launched a national campaign for expanded background checks for gun sales.
Escorted by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and fair operator David Petronis, Kelly and Giffords, both gun owners, took their time browsing — inspecting guns, belt buckles, knives and books.
Giffords walked with a limp and held Kelly’s hand, a bright smile on her face as she greeted vendors. A small crowd of onlookers gathered, snapping photos with their cellphones, but many fair patrons simply kept on shopping.
After the tour of the fair, Kelly told reporters that gun violence is a complicated problem that can be reduced by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.
A complex issue
“One of the ways to do that is to make sure that it’s rather difficult for a criminal or prohibited purchaser to walk into a gun show and buy a gun,” he said.
Giffords said unity also has to be part of the solution.
“Now is the time to come together,” the former Arizona congresswoman urged. “We work constantly with Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting.”
Kelly praised New York’s Model Gun Show Procedures, calling the effort “an example where government can work together with gun owners and federally licensed firearms dealers to have a solution that’s common sense that most people agree on.”
Not everyone at the arms fair agreed with that view, however.
Outside the City Center, Jake Palmateer of Glenville was among about a dozen people protesting New York’s recent gun control law, the SAFE Act.
He said he does not believe expanded background checks for gun sales will help stop gun violence.
“With the mass shootings that we’ve seen in recent years, in most cases, if not all, the shooters either passed an FBI background check already or the weapon was stolen, so a universal background check would not have prevented any of those mass shootings,” he explained.
Mental health issue
Dan Tucker of Castleton, Vt., who was holding a raffle at the arms fair, said stringent laws won’t help stop gun violence unless mental health issues are addressed country-wide.
“Until we address that we’re not going to go anywhere. We’re still going to have the tragedies — the one [Giffords] suffered and that many have suffered in this country,” he said.
Vendor Richard Pelzer of Providence said a person’s mental health needs to be considered during a gun purchase.
“If people don’t like their privacy invaded like that, they shouldn’t buy a gun. Its that simple,” he said.
Larry Catallo of Waterford brought his copy of the book “Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience,” to the fair, in hopes of getting it signed by Giffords.
A gun owner himself, he said he is in favor of strict background checks for gun buyers.
“I’m not against guns, but I’m all for keeping them out of the hands of the wrong people,” he said.
At the fair, Kelly and Giffords did some book shopping. They bought a first-edition copy of “Colt Firearms” by James Serven and a book about World War I.
“If I had more time, I probably would have bought another gun here today. I saw some firearms that I was quite interested in,” Kelly said.
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