Note: Thanks to all who braved the cold and the crowd to attend the vote tonight!!
This is a big win for our side, because it's the farthest we've ever gotten with the bill to ban Gun Shows at the Westchester County Center.
As for it being "mostly symbolic," as the subhead says below, that's what the opponents and the cynics like to say. It's always "mostly symbolic," until you keep passing it over and over, then you win. And history is made. Yes we have a veto to override, but we showed that democracy is alive, and has a pulse, and that we will be continuing our organizing and advocacy to win this vote, and protect our communities against gun shows in publicly-supported, government-owned buildings.
Mostly symbolic bill won't block show scheduled for the Westchester County Center
WHITE PLAINS - Westchester lawmakers voted Monday to ban gun shows on county-owned property, but the mostly symbolic move won’t stop a show scheduled at the Westchester County Center in two weeks.
The ban, which passed by a 9-8 vote by the Westchester County Board of Legislators, faces certain veto at the hands of County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican. Astorino said the upcoming gun show shouldn’t an issue because it will be “properly policed and protected.”
“These people have a legal right, after they pass a very complete background check, to have a gun," he said. “Some people want nothing to do with guns, don’t want anyone to have a gun. I get that, I don’t agree with that.”
The 17-member Board of Legislators won’t have the 12 votes needed to override the veto — with the seven Republicans and one Conservative Party member on the board expected to oppose the override.
A firearm and knife show by Westchester Collectors set for Jan. 21 and 22 will be the first of its kind at the center in four years. When news of that show emerged last month, it reignited a push to ban gun shows on county-owned properties that has come up several times since Astorino came into office in 2010.
As a counterproposal to an outright ban, board Republicans are proposing a law to outline requirements for gun shows — not only on county-owned property but private property as well.
The requirements, recommended by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, include limiting the number of access doors. A public hearing for the proposed law is tentatively scheduled to be held at the County Center on Jan. 24, with a board vote to follow Feb. 6.
On Monday evening, Legislator Gordon A. Burrows, R-Yonkers, called the newly proposed measure "a common-sense approach" that is "fair to the public and follows state regulations." He added, "I don't like guns and I have no interest in owning a gun, but I support the rights of those who do."
Astorino has said he’d “be fine” with that law, but that the county already follows the guidelines.
His predecessor, Democrat Andy Spano, had enacted a no-gun-show policy after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. A gun show in early 2013 was canceled after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
Astorino said that all sides, including he and the promoter, decided to cancel that show because they didn’t want White Plains to become the “epicenter of the gun debate in America.” Since then, he said, the county has been receptive to another show but has had limited scheduling due to the development-league Westchester Knicks playing home games there.
The gun show is expected to have 350 tables selling modern, antique and collectible firearms, ammunition, handguns, knives, military style weapons, books and other gun-related memorabilia.
The county is expecting to take in between $40,000 and $50,000 over the two days, according to Astorino’s spokesman. That includes a $23,000 flat fee, $2 per ticket sold and parking and sales-tax revenue. Legislature Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat, has countered that any income would be offset by the cost of added security at and around the center.
“It’s perfectly legal to have a gun show but it isn’t necessary and it doesn’t fit within the family motif of what we’re trying to promote,” he said in a recent interview.
The board heard mixed opinions about the proposed ban during Monday's meeting.
Representatives from the Westchester Women’s Agenda, Westchester Children’s Association and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence voiced support for the measure, while speakers from the Westchester County Firearms Association, as well as local gun owners, said they believed it violated their Second Amendment rights and unfairly targeted the gun industry.
Evette Lubrano, a local business owner and parent, accused legislators of basing their actions “purely on flexing political muscle and satisfying personal vendettas” and questioned if the board intends to “cherry-pick” events at the center going forward. For instance, she said, if Mothers Against Drunk Driving was opposed to an upcoming beer festival or if P.E.T.A. petitioned against the annual reptile show, would the county enact a similar ban?
“Where are you going to draw the line?” Lubrano said.
“We shouldn’t use county property to promote gun sales…there are ample opportunities for those who wish to purchase guns at dealerships,” said the Rev. Noelle Damico of the Hudson River Presbytery.
The programs, expos and concerts at the county center each year make it “a great place to take the family,” Damico said. “Let’s keep it for geckos, not guns.”