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Council Votes To End Gun Sales At Saratoga Springs City Center

Lucas Willard

Gun shows at the Saratoga Springs City Center will soon be a thing of the past. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the city council Friday voted on a measure that will effectively halt one of the venue’s longest-running events.

Gun shows at the Saratoga Springs City Center have been a regular occurrence at the city-owned venue for years. The organizer of the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates’ gun show, David Petronis, told WAMC this week that a show set for this Memorial Day weekend would be his 108th at the City Center.

It also may be the last. By unanimous vote Friday morning, the city council gave Democratic Mayor Meg Kelly the authorization to sign a lease addendum with the City Center to halt the sale of modern guns and ammunition at the convention hall.

The Center Center Authority voted to accept the change to the lease on Wednesday. Ryan McMahon is Executive Director of the City Center.

“The City Center Authority has for 30-plus years worked very closely with the city council. When there’s a will to do something like this, the Authority is happy to go with the will of the people. And that’s what this represents,” said McMahon.

But before the vote, the people in the audience were divided over the issue.

Deirdre Ladd, representing the group Saratogians For Gun Safety, thanked Mayor Kelly for introducing the measure at the special meeting.

“After the Sandy Hook tragedy five years ago, our group formed, petitioned, protested, and persisted in opposing  the gun shows at the City Center, especially given the City Center’s downtown location and proximity to schools,” said Ladd.

On the other side of the issue, Curtis Capellanno, chairman of the Capital District chapter of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, called the measure an infringement on constitutional rights.

“I urge you to not sign this agreement, this addendum, because it’s just virtue signaling to say that you’ve done something for the city. And it’s just overreach. It’s fine the way it is,” said Capellanno.

Don Hall, a former principal in the Saratoga Springs School District, said he encountered students with guns on more than one occasion.

“They didn’t buy them at a gun shop, they stole them. And by stopping a gun sale, a very legal business with all the proper permits and government over-coverage, you’re going in the wrong direction. This is a man’s livelihood,” said Hall.

The members of the council disagreed with such claims.

Democratic Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan said the city has the right to do what it wants regarding its property and land.  

“So I do not believe there is any overreach or infringement here. We are not saying that this gun show organizer is not welcome to negotiate a contract with some other private venue. We are just saying not here on city-owned property or city-owned land.”

Mayor Kelly said halting gun sales at the City Center is not the only measure being considered by the city.

“It is merely one step in a larger effort to address safety of employees and residents of city facilities,” said Kelly.

Republican Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said his office is drafting an RFP for an engineering study to examine potential safety improvements at several municipal buildings.

“We’re looking at city-owned buildings, city-owned, managed buildings,” said Scirocco.  “City Hall being one of them, the rec center being another one…” 

Kelly said the city is working with faith leaders to hold a gun buy-back program.

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