The city has seen more anti-gun activism in the wake of the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The gun show, an annual event at the City Center, was first opposed by Susan Steer, who organized an online petition in hopes of cancelling the show. She was in attendance, along with many of her supporters, to address the board directly.
“I started the petition because I wanted the board to know I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. I wanted to know if there were others. I didn’t know if there were going to be five people, ten people. Now we have over 1,000 signatures,” Steer said during the public comment period held before the meeting.
Steer also had the support of the Saratoga Springs City Council, who unanimously passed a non-binding resolution during their January 2 meeting asking the promoters of the show not to display or sell “semi-automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines of the type used in the Newtown tragedy.”
The City Center has stated that they are contractually obligated to hold the show, which has been a fixture at the venue for the last 30 years. Steer countered by stating that the contract between the NEACA and the City Center had already technically been breached. She said the contract stipulates the promoter, David Petronis, provide proof of liability insurance to the venue no less than 30 days prior to the beginning of the rental period. Given the date of the gun show, the document was due no later than December 12.
“That certificate of insurance was not given to the City Center until December 28; therefore the plain language of the contract is violated. Mr. Petronis is seen as violating the contract and the City Center doesn’t have to be seen as making a decision for some other reason as a way to say the contract is cancelled.”
Steer says when she brought this up to the City Center’s president, Mark Baker; he told her that was only her interpretation of the contract.
Steer would only be the first of many to voice their displeasure to the City Center Authority board, which included Mayor Scott Johnson and a host of other influential members of Saratoga Springs like Tom Roohan, Susan Farnsworth and Shelby Schneider, among others.
Local activist Charlie Samuels made his presence felt more than a few times during the meeting. Samuels spoke very highly of Susan Steer, commending her efforts to see the gun show cancelled. He challenged the board to cancel the show. “This is about guts. We need to [squelch] this madness. This is a small step by cancelling the gun show in order to do it. I encourage you to take the challenge,” Samuels stated.
“We’re in a post-Sandy Hook world now. Everything has changed,” Samuels continued. Only one person spoke in favor of the gun show going on as planned. Local blogger John Tighe prodded the opposition, asking that since drunk driving annually kills thousands, whether the city has considered cancelling the upcoming Saratoga Beer Week.
By the end of the public comment period, the assembled crowd was beginning to stir in anticipation that the board would announce its decision. When Mark Baker announced the show would go on as scheduled, some members of the audience were apoplectic.
Many in attendance were upset that the board would invite them to voice their opinions on a matter which had already been decided prior to the meeting.
“The eyes of the nation are upon this city right now, and you have embarrassed yourselves and you’ve embarrassed this city. I just want you to know publically that we’re all disappointed in you that you would let us come up here and give our comments before giving us your decision. Obviously you made a decision before you got here and you didn’t have the guts to stand up to a contract for $6,700,” said Mike Winn.
There are currently three protests scheduled to take place outside the City Center this weekend during the Arms Fair. The Facebook group started by Susan Steer called “Saratogians for Gun Safety” has announced their intentions to be there, along with the Saratoga Peace Alliance and a group representing moveon.org.