Thursday, 17 January 2013 09:13

Saratoga Springs City Council: Public Commenters Still Pushing for Gun Show Ban

By Andrew Marshall | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – While the January NEACA Arms Fair may have come and gone without incident, the debate over whether the city should continue to allow future gun shows to take place raged on during the public comment portion of the January 15 Saratoga Springs City Council meeting.

With the January gun show in the rear view mirror, gun safety advocates focused their attention on seeing the next arms fair – scheduled for the weekend of March 15-17 – is cancelled or moved to a venue outside city limits.

Deirdre Ladd, of the group “Saratogians for Gun Safety,” stated that her group intends to protest any and all arms fairs held at the City Center. There are also two more shows scheduled for August and October of this year. She stated that she was proud to stand in protest in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, but condemned the masked protesters who she described as “gun-toting masked people waving swastikas and Confederate flags,” who were shouting at her and her children.

A few members of the assembled pro-gun crowd featured individuals wearing a mask resembling English revolutionary Guy Fawkes, which has been come to symbolize the online collective/hacking outfit Anonymous, though there is no indication the individuals at the protest were affiliated with the group.

Ladd said it took a lot of courage for her to stand there that day, and asked the council to display their courage by banning all future gun shows at the City Center.

David Chew, who prefaced that he had not intended to speak that evening, pointed out that over 5,000 individuals came out to the gun show, which in 30 years of being in the city has never once reported an incident. He acknowledged that there may have been “a couple of morons” at the protest, but that the city should not be so eager to turn away commerce in the name of “feel-good legislation.”

“Please don’t make the mistake of chasing commerce out of this city just because someone is afraid of a gun,” said Chew.

Susan Steer, the gun safety activist who has been at the very forefront of the debate, said that if the Council passed a resolution banning gun shows at the City Center that they might be willing to listen. She also made mention of the hostility she encountered while “expressing her First Amendment rights” outside of the City Center during the gun show.

Mark Baker, the president of the City Center Authority, was one of the last to speak. He made mention of the show’s popularity while also acknowledging some of the more abrasive pro-gun protesters. He spoke with the tired patience of a man only trying to do what was best for the city and the City Center, while remaining open to the thoughts of those who oppose the gun show.

“Last weekend for the City Center, we had the largest, single attendance day in our history. It was one of the busiest public show weekends we’ve ever hosted. It was also incident free.”

Baker said he encouraged the show’s promoter, David Petronis, to make a contribution to the city in appreciation for the service provided by the police department during the protests. He added that Petronis agreed to make a $1,000 contribution and that the City Center would match it.

In other Saratoga Springs City Council news, there was some tension among board members as they attempted to review the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which must be reviewed every five years. Mayor Scott Johnson had hoped to award a bid to M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying P.C. to carry out the update, but Accounts Commissioner John Franck asked why a bid was being awarded before a committee could be formed.

That led to Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan inquiring as to how the Comprehensive Plan committee is formed. She believes the council should be allowed input into the decision, while the mayor feels he should be allowed to appoint the committee himself.

Madigan cited that the City Charter does not give the mayor the authority to make the selections.

The matter was tabled until the February 5 meeting, after Commissioner Franck removed his agenda item approving the award of bid to M.J. Engineering.

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