It’s easy — in the wake of the Orlando massacre and other recent mass shootings — to assume that every state and every gun shop and every gun show in America operates under the same lax rules.
Some crazy, ramped-up, 20-something zealot could walk into any store off the street, buy a machine gun, then walk into a dance club or a church or a movie theater and mow people down at will.
The simple solution, many believe, is to shut down any enterprise that’s in the business of selling weapons.
That’s what seems to be behind the knee-jerk reaction presented by some members of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee to encourage the Saratoga Springs City Council to prohibit gun shows at the downtown City Center.
In a statement, a committee member who pushed the resolution said, “I think it’s time, given what happened in Orlando, to get rid of at least the ability for the City Center to have a gun show where you can buy a gun without being checked.”
Two things are wrong with that statement.
First, what happened in Orlando, where the gunman walked into a gun store and purchased his AR-15 and a handgun, couldn’t happen in New York at any legitimate gun show, such as the ones that have been being put on at the City Center since 1984.
Florida has some of the most lax gun laws in the country, and the weapons he purchased are legal there. In fact, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Florida a grade of “F” for its laws.
For example, Florida does not require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties, require firearms dealers to obtain a state license, license firearm owners, require the registration of firearms, or regulate assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.
In the same ranking, New York state got a grade of A-, the highest grade the organization gave out.
New York, unlike Florida, requires all private firearm sales, including those at a gun show, to be processed through a licensed dealer, who conducts a background check.
The state also, according to the center, requires firearms dealers to obtain a state license. New York bans most assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines under the Safe Act.
While the state does not have a waiting period on gun purchases, it does require anyone purchasing or possessing a handgun to first obtain a license after undergoing a background check. That can sometimes take six months or more.
And all sales of ammunition in New York must be conducted through a licensed dealer and only after a background check is conducted on the purchaser.
In addition, as we’re seeing in Saratoga Springs, local governments in New York can take their own steps to regulate firearm sales and ammunition within their boundaries, unlike in Florida.
So if you think the next Omar Mateen who gets a wild hair to shoot up a club is going to be able to act on the spur of the moment and run off to the City Center gun show for his weapons of choice and come out blazing, you’re simply wrong.
It’s incredibly difficult here in New York to do such a thing without breaking some laws.
So there’s no reason for Saratoga Springs to ban this perfectly legal, highly regulated event — largely put on for sportsmen and collectors and which has been drawing many visitors to downtown Saratoga Springs and generating many thousands of dollars in revenue every year for more than three decades.
If the event is not making money or is legitimately crowded out by other, more lucrative events, then those are legitimate reasons for the City Center not to host the show in the future.
But if the only reason is because of some hysterical fear by a handful of people that it might be the source of the next massacre, then that’s not a legitimate reason.
We realize some people are uncomfortable with such events, particularly after what’s been happening in our country and around the world lately. It’s understandable.
But before it lets irrational fear dictate its decision on whether to ban or discourage gun shows at the City Center, the City Council needs to make sure it has all the correct information and is acting for all the right reasons.