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Absence Of Gun Show Creates Controversy In Saratoga Springs


Story updated 10/22/16. Audio from the originally aired story is posted.

October has typically been a month when the Saratoga Springs City Center hosts the North East Arms Collectors Association’s gun show.

The City Center’s longest recurring event, the trade show was founded by David Petronis more than 30 years ago. But this summer, Petronis said the City Center told him his August show would be his last, as there were no more available dates over the next year.

Petronis said he’s taking his October sale downstate.

“Now we’re down in Fishkill for this weekend’s gun show. We’re at the Ramada Inn right off of Route 9. They wanted us down and we’re there,” said Petronis.

City Center President Mark Baker did not return a request for comment Thursday.

While the gun show has been praised by supporters and was even attended by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, it has grown increasingly controversial within the city, especially after mass shootings like Sandy Hook, which brought protesters to the steps of the City Center.

Earlier this year, the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee adopted an official opposition to the sale of guns at the City Center.

And last week, Republican State Senator Kathy Marchione, who is campaigning for re-election, delivered a petition in support of the gun show with more than 2,000 signatures to the City Center board.

Petronis said he is awaiting a response from the City Center board but is unsure the petition would change any minds.

This issue was brought before the Saratoga Springs City Council on Tuesday by resident David Bronner.

Bronner asked the city council to take action and adopt a resolution stating its formal position on the gun show.

“Saratoga Springs as we all know is a welcoming, open city, diverse city. But perhaps it appears at this point it’s only that except for gun owners, gun traders, and gun show attendees, and that’s unfortunate,” said Bronner.

At the meeting, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, a Democrat, said he had no objections to the gun show whatsoever.

“My concern is making sure the City Center is busy. I don’t care if they have gun shows or dog shows or what they have.  I think it’s important that they stay busy. I think its best that they City Council leave that determination to the city center,” said Mathiesen.

Though the City Center is a quasi-public agency, it has its own independent board of directors.

Mayor Joanne Yepsen said was “thrilled with the direction [the City Center is] moving.”

“I’m sorry if it’s canceled out somebody that’s been there for 30 years, but that is their prerogative to fill the spaces as they see fit,” said Yepsen.

Of Marchione’s petition, Yepsen, a Democrat, said Saratoga Springs is an important voting bloc in the 43rd Senate District.

“And our constituents here don’t want her to be spreading petitions. What they want to know is where she stands on issues, including who she supports as the next president of the United States,” said Yepsen.

Marchione did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday or Thursday.

UPDATE 10/22/16:

Senator Kathy Marchione responded to Mayor Joanne Yepsen's comments in a statement, saying, "It's sad [the mayor} thinks that my encouraging citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment freedoms isn't something that should be done."

Marchione spoke in defense of those on the petition and said she would be "happy" to send a copy of the Constitution to the mayor.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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