A move to block an upcoming gun show at the Westchester County Center advanced forward Tuesday evening, with members of three committees on the Westchester County Board of Legislators recommending a full vote on the measure next week.
Democrats on committees for Legislation, Labor/Parks/Planning/Housing and Public Safety & Social Services signed off on the proposal, which would prohibit gun shows from being held on county-owned property, and it will head before the county board of legislators at its Jan. 9 meeting for final consideration.
Should legislation pass, however, County Executive Rob Astorino is expected to veto the bill, according his spokesman, Phil Oliva. An override would need 12 votes, which would require support from a few of the seven Republicans and one Conservative Party member on the 17-member board.
Word of the show's planned return after a four-year hiatus surfaced in the middle of December and prompted local Democrats to call for the county to reinstate an earlier ban on such expos. Shortly after, Mike Kaplowitz, a Democrat and chairman of the Board of Legislators told The Journal News he'll fast-track a bill that would immediately ban gun shows on county-owned property so that it's voted on Jan. 9 - ahead of the shows on Jan. 21 and 22.
In recent weeks, a petition urging the county to put the ban back in effect has received nearly 4,950 signatures.
As a counter proposal to an outright ban, Republicans aim to put forward a bill on Jan. 9 establishing safety procedures for firearms shows, in order to make residents "feel more secure" about the events. The guidelines include requirements for tagging sold guns to demonstrate they've met background checks and police patrols to prevent illegal gun sales outside of and around the building.
In 2010, Astorino lifted the ban, which had been put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Andrew Spano, following the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. However, after a gunman murdered 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, Astorino canceled a show for February 2013 and there hasn't been once since.
Westchester Collectors, which has held gun shows at the venue since the early 1980s, is set to host a 350-table sportsman firearm and knife show/sale on Jan. 21 and 22. On sale will be modern, antique and collectible firearms, ammunition, handguns, knives, military-style weapons, books and other gun-related memorabilia.
The county is expected to receive $23,000 from Westchester Collectors to rent the space, along with $2 per admission ticket sold, according to Astorino's office.
Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) pointed out the Democrats' proposal doesn't prevent the show's organizers from hosting it on private property; it just bars them from using parks and facilities owned by the county. "It is not a business the county should be getting into and I am glad we took this first big step to making this the law of Westchester," Jenkins said in a statement Tuesday evening.
This isn't the first attempt to get rid of gun shows at the County Center.
In 2015, a petition calling for a ban on gun shows didn't go far, with Astorino saying he had no plans to limit firearms shows there and that the county would consider a request made by a licensed operator in the future. An October 2015 proposal by Democrats on the Board of Legislators for the ban never advanced.
"On New Year's Eve, my community suffered another senseless act of gun violence," Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) said in a statement Tuesday evening. "This time, a 13-year-old eighth grader became the victim of crossfire as she sat in the passenger seat of her mother's car. It is time for us to take a strong stand against the proliferation of guns in our community. A strong message banning sales and distribution of guns at gun shows from the county center and on any county-owner building is the first step."