Talking Points for January 24 Hearing

On Tuesday, January 24 at 7:00 PM, there will be a public hearing on the proposed Gun Show Ban legislation, and the Model Gun Show Procedures bill proposed by the Republican Caucus.

The hearing will take place :

Westchester County Center Little Theater
198 Central Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

The meeting will start at 7:00 PM, but people may sign up to speak, starting at 6:15 PM.

County Executive Astorino is expected to veto the recently passed bill to ban gun shows at the Westchester County Center this week.  Unfortunately, this means that the January 21-22 Gun Show is expected to take place as originally scheduled, despite massive public opposition.

Next Tuesday's hearing provides an opportunity for citizens and residents to express their concerns about the continued scheduling of Gun Shows at the County Center.  Unlike the January 9 hearing, in theory, there is no limit to the number of speakers, so everyone who attends can sign up and be heard.

In addition, speakers can address the proposed bill to adopt Model Gun Show Procedures for all future gun shows held in Westchester County, whether on public or private property.  The Model Gun Show Procedures were developed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and so far more than 30 gun show promoters who hold gun shows in New York state and the Northeast have adopted them.

In addition, speakers may address other issues about gun violence in our commuities, and the County Board of Legislators' responsibility to address them.   If you have a concern, please come to the hearing and share it.

Draft Talking Points

Your testimony should be focused and short!!   At most, you'll be only given a few minutes to speak at the January 24 hearing, although you can submit a longer written statement.

Here are some talking points to give you ideas about issues to address or comment on.  We'll add more material this week, as it becomes available.

1)  OVERIDE COUNTY EXECUTIVE ASTORINO'S VETO OF THE GUN SHOW BAN (Bill sponsored by County Legislator Ken Jenkins and other legislators, which passed by a vote of 9-8 on January 9).
Westchester County should permanently ban Gun Shows at Westchester County Center, and in any other county buildings or property.

In 1999, Gun Shows were banned by former County Executive Andrew Spano in the wake of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where the shooters obtained guns through straw purchases at a Gun Show.  County Executive Astorino also banned Gun Shows temporarily in 2012 after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, when 20 students and six staff members were killed.  

On January 9, the County Board of Legislators passed a bill to ban the Gun Shows permanently by a vote of 9-8, which is expected to be vetoed by County Executive Astorino.   We urge the legislators who voted against the ban to please reconsider, and join with the legislative majority to please vote YES for the Gun Show Ban.  This would enable the Board of Legislators to override the veto, and make the Gun Show Ban permanent.  

Nothing has changed since the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 to justify reinstatement of Gun Shows at Westchester County Center.

Mass shootings continue at a steady pace in the United States, with over 476 incidents logged in 2016, defined as incidents where 4 or more people are injured or killed.  Included in these Terrible incidents over the last two years include the high profile mass shootings in San Bernardino, CA in December 2015, in which 14 people were killed and 22 injured; the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June 2015, where 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded; and the Ft. Lauderdale Airport on January 6, 2017, where 5 people were killed and 6 others shot.

On an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns, for a total of 33,880 gun deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  On average, seven children and teens (under age 19) are killed by guns every day in the U.S.   On average, there are nearly 11,500 homicides every year in the U.S., and 21,000 suicides resulting from firearms.

In 2015, 75 percent of children killed with guns were  under the age of 12.  Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, an American child under 12 has died by intentional and accidental gunfire every other day, according to analysis by NBC News. 
In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S.  When a gun is present in a situation of domestic violence, it increases the risk the woman will be killed by five times.  (Source: Everytown USA)

And for every person who is killed, two more are shot and injured.  Guns cause severe disabling injuries, including loss of limbs, paralysis and brain injuries.     

Most mass shootings are carried out with guns that are legally purchased.

82% of weapons involved in mass shootings over the last three decades have been bought legally, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine that defines a mass shooting as taking the lives of at least four people in a public place.   

Illegal sales of weapons at gun shows in other states where there is less regulation is still a huge concern for reducing gun violence throughout the US.  But the issue of whether a buyer can pass a background check or not does not excuse Westchester County from responsibility for possible deaths and injuries that may result from the sale of these weapons at gun shows at the County Center.   

Gun Shows typically attract several thousand people and a single Gun Show can have sales of over 1,000 firearms over the course of one weekend, according to the Law Center to Prevent Violence

Gun Shows are commercial events dedicated to the display and sale of firearms and firearm-related accessories, and operate as temporary markets for the transfer of firearms.   While Gun Shows in New York state require mandatory background checks for dealer and private sales, and are more tightly regulated than other states, they nevertheless represent a significant channel for introducing new firearms into Westchester County.

Banning Gun Shows on county property is NOT a First Amendment or free speech issue, because it is about the commercial sale and distribution of dangerous products.  If the NRA wanted to hold a meeting at the County Center, they can do so.  But Westchester County is under no obligation whatsoever to sponsor regular open-air markets for firearms, as a way of earning revenue to offset other county expenses.    

As a government body supported with public dollars, Westchester County has should put the health and safety of its county residents first, rather than opening its doors to vendors promoting the sale of guns and ammunition.  

Westchester County should not be in the business of promoting gun ownership, plain and simple.   Along with the Gun Show vendors, who earn profits from gun sales, the County is using its name and “brand recognition” to broadly invite members of the public to attend a commercial event to purchase guns and ammunition.  The County itself says that it earns $23,000 - $30,000 in revenue from each Gun Show, financed by ticket sales and vendor payments. 

Members of the public who see large signs promoting Gun Shows on the County Center may reasonably conclude that Westchester County thinks that the purchase and sale of guns is a safe and healthful activity.   The County has put its “imprimatur” and Seal of Approval on the Gun Show. 

Families and young children who visit the Westchester County Center for sports and recreational events  are exposed to this cross-promotion for the Gun Show, and the ownership and collection of guns is being popularized and normalized as they are growing up.   Many families who visit the County Center for other events are concerned about the Gun Show, and would prefer it not take place on county property.

Because other county expenses are probably greatly increased by the sale and distribution of guns into the community, such as expenses for law enforcement, corrections, medical care and social services, this is a highly illogical and financially irresponsible activity for the County to engage in.

Westchester County has a moral and ethical responsibility not to promote and profit from the commercial sale of guns and ammunition.

As members of the County Legislature, you have an obligation to make sure the County sponsors safe and healthful activities, and refrains from sponsoring activities that are damaging to public health.

If and when guns that are sold at the County Center are later used in homicides, domestic disputes, suicides or crimes, Westchester County shares moral and ethical responsibility for these outcomes, because it is serving as a sponsor and promoter of the sale of these weapons.  

Whether Westchester County could be successfully sued in court for financial liability may not be clear.  But the County’s moral standing and reputation could be gravely damaged, as a result of firearms deaths caused by weapons purchased at a County-sponsored Gun Show.  Even just a few incidents could be extremely damaging and hurtful for the victims of gun violence, including family members.    

The County and some legislators claim there’s never been “a single incident” of documented harm from the Gun Shows, but this statement is illogical, and defies common sense.  In fact, the County doesn’t track what happens to the guns and ammunition after it leaves their premises.   National gun rights groups don’t want the public to have this information, and as a consequence, we don’t.   The County and the public have little way of knowing who has been harmed by these guns, now or in the future.   A more conservative approach would be to limit the risk, and avoid the association with the current and future harm, by banning the Gun Shows.

Gun violence is an urgent public health issue.  Government sponsorship of Gun Shows puts communities and people at serious risk of death and injury. 

The field of public health tries to address systemic issues that affect the health of people in society. Public health issues includes safety.  When hazards are identified, medical experts, government officials and safety advocates work together to promote broad range of safety measures such as avoiding accidental poisoning, requiring car seats for small children, and work-related safety.  Guns, too, should be addressed through effective public health measures, because every year over 30,000 Americans are killed and 70,000 or more are injured by firearms.  

On June 14, 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a national policy statement calling gun violence in the U.S. “a public health crisis,” which requires a comprehensive public health response and solution.

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence,” said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D. “Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries. An epidemiological analysis of gun violence is vital so physicians and other health providers, law enforcement, and society at large may be able to prevent injury, death and other harms to society resulting from firearms.”

The AMA “recognizes that uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public's health, inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths.”

Guns in the home increase risk.

Rather than being used for self-defense, guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts. For every one time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.  More than a third of the victims were under 25 years of age.    (Source: New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.)

We are concerned that the County has not fully considered the full impact of gun ownership on families and children in our community.  By continuing to sponsor Gun Shows, the County runs the risk that the guns purchased at the show will be used both intentionally and unintentionally in ways that gravely harm others.   Is it really worth $30,000 for the risk you are taking, in the public’s name?

There are many other alternative events and shows that could be hosted at Westchester County Center, in place of the Gun Shows.

County officials and legislators have stated at public hearings that there are other options for booking alternative events at Westchester County Center, to replace any revenue that might be lost by banning Gun Shows.   The County Center already has a busy calendar, and other sports, recreational, home and animal events could be arranged as an alternative to the Gun Show.    Some members of the public would feel more comfortable attending events at the County Center if no more Gun Shows are scheduled, so this could actually increase revenue for other events.

Further, we believe the County may be underestimating the potential financial and physical harm to residents as a result of continuing to host Gun Shows.   In the long run, banning Gun Shows is better for Westchester County from a financial, reputational, operational and ethical perspective.

We are paying close attention to legislators' actions, not just their words.  We need action by at least 12 members of the Board of Legislators to support the Gun Show Ban, and to override County Executive Astorino's expected veto.

2)  MODEL GUN SHOW PROCEDURES BILL introduced by County Legislator Maisano.

>> The County should pass the proposed local law to require all Gun Shows in Westchester to observe the Model Gun Show Procedures developed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

See here for more information on this proposed law.   This bill, introduced by the Republican caucus that opposed the Gun Show ban, would help ensure that any gun show held in Westchester County meetings model procedures developed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.   

Already, most gun show operators (32) in New York state have signed on to obey the guidelines, under Schneiderman's marketplace pledge campaign.   But, a legal requirement that private shows meet the model procedures would be a step forward, relative to current law. 
  • ·         The Model Gun Show Procedures bill is a good start, but needs to go back to committee for more work
  • ·         The enforcement and penalties are not listed clearly in the bill, which creates too much confusion
  • ·         The enforcement and penalties currently in the bill are nowhere near strong enough
  • ·         This bill has NO County Public Safety Department oversight
  • ·         Bill does not require notification of any future gun shows to the consumer protection department
  • ·         Bill relies consumer protection department to enforce without allocating any resources to do so
  • ·         Section 8 of bill permits people to bring their own guns to the gun show for sale, without being a New York State registered dealer
  • ·         82% of weapons involved in mass shootings over the last three decades have been bought legally
  • ·         Westchester County should still also permanently ban Gun Shows on County Property
  • ·         Additional gun proposals does NOTHING to combat straw purchases
  • ·         Nothing has changed since the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 to justify reinstatement of Gun Shows at Westchester County Center
  • ·         Guns in the home increase risk of accidental shootings
  • ·         This is not an issue about illegal vs. legal guns
  • ·         Investigations including the NYS-AG showed there is a “blatant disregard for gun show laws” & weapons sellers failed to ensure background checks were conducted
  • ·         States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates than states with lower gun ownership rates
  • ·         Gun shows often lead to grey market transactions after the show
  • ·         Multiple studies show (CDC & the New England Journal of Medicine) that the states with the most guns have the most suicides
  • ·         Suicides are impulsive acts. There are no waiting periods required in the state of NY

We are paying close attention to legislators' actions, not just their words.  We need action by at least 12 members of the Board of Legislators to support the Gun Show Ban, and to override County Executive Astorino's expected veto.

Draft:  Prevent Gun Violence-Westchester, 1/20/17

See also:  Testimony of Rebecca Fisher, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, 1/9/17 hearing on Gun Show Ban.