Westchester County legislators are working on a measure to strengthen gun show regulations. In the meantime, a state lawmaker from the county has introduced legislation to ban gun shows on public property.
As promised, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed legislation earlier in January that would have banned gun shows in government buildings. Since then, there was a public hearing on the matter and county lawmakers are working on legislation, initially introduced by the Republican Caucus, that builds upon state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Model Gun Show Procedures. Here’s Westchester Board of Legislators Republican Minority Leader John Testa.
“We feel that when this passes, we’ll have the safest and most regulated gun shows in the state,” Testa says.
Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia calls the legislation a good start but wants it strengthened.
“The guidelines of the attorney general’s recommendations are fine,” says Borgia. “We just don’t feel that the way the proposed legislation was written has enough clarity about how it’s going to be enforced and it doesn’t have clarity around what the penalties are going to be.”
Testa says it is strong.
“We just discussed it bipartisanly at a joint committee meeting Monday and we did clarify all the enforcement with public safety and parallel with the consumer protection and we feel it’s in a good place to move forward,” Testa says.
A gun show returned to Westchester the weekend of January 21 after a four-year hiatus. Astorino says it attracted nearly 8,000 attendees compared with about 4,800 at gun shows past. Democratic Westchester Legislators issued a press release saying they were disappointed but not surprised to see images of pro-Nazi literature and Confederate flags being sold. Borgia would like to see a ban on selling this type of merchandise in the budding legislation.
“There’s no First Amendment right that says a county has to sponsor selling racist, sexist and anti-Semitic material,” Borgia says. “So we’d like to have some discussion about that.”
Responding to a resident’s question about the gun show veto during a recent town hall forum, Astorino mentioned something else.
“I’m going to be kind here,” said Astorino. “A hyper-political press release went out from some of the members of the Board of Legislators trying to make it look like it was a Nazi reunion at the County Center.”
He dismissed the Democrats’ press release.
“You talk about fake news, that’s it. That’s it,” Astorino said.
Astorino says he walked around the gun show and saw the following.
“It was books, the same books, by the way, that you can take out of the Greenburgh library, the Mount Pleasant library and in the Westchester library system,” said Astorino. “So if these same people who put that release out want those books banned from the gun show, I’m assuming they also want them banned from the library.”
Plus, he says:
“There was a Confederate flag that somebody put up for display to sell,” Astorino said. “We told them that will not fly here.If you want to put it in your case and sell it, that’s fine, that’s your right, but it’s not going to fly.”
“If what the county is profiting from is t-shirts that say ‘Get her drunk’ and a Confederate flag there’s not really a big moral leg to stand on by saying it’s history. Everything’s history,” says Borgia. “What we seek to do is change the history.”
Meanwhile, Democratic state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti of Westchester has introduced legislation to ban gun shows on public property in New York.
“Our government should not be encouraging more guns in our communities. And by hosting these shows on public property, the governments are putting their stamp of approval on bringing more guns into our communities,” Abinanti says. “They’re putting gun shows in the same light that they put toy shows and basketball tournaments and children’s entertainment.”
Testa predicts the legislation will go nowhere. So far, the bill does not have any co-sponsors or a companion bill in the Senate. Again, Abinanti.
“We have just put the bill in this year and we have not yet sought other supporters,” says Abinanti. “But I think we’re sending the message here that we should be looking at this on a statewide basis.”
He is hopeful the legislation will move forward.