By Anna Young
A host of organizations seeking to continue their fight to ban gun shows on county property met last Saturday morning in Chappaqua to discuss strategies on how they would achieve their goals.
“When I learned a gun show would return to the County Center after a four-year reprieve, I was outraged,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) said at the Feb. 4 forum at New Castle Town Hall. “It’s our responsibility to act now regardless of the politics to spare families the pain gun violence brings.”
From 1999 to 2010, Westchester had ended gun shows at the County Center, before County Executive Rob Astorino lifted the ban for one to be held in 2012. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, a 2013 show was canceled.
But when the Westchester Board of Legislators learned in December that a gun show would be held at the County Center in January, Democrats unanimously voted for a gun show ban on country property, arguing the events promote a culture of violence.
As anticipated, County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the bill the day before the Jan. 21 opening of the two-day show, which was attended by an estimated 5,000 people, a record turnout for a county gun show.
“Guns are part of tragedies and I don’t think we should be using the Westchester County Center to promote the sale of guns,” Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) said.
Despite the event’s commercial success, Chuck Bell, a member of Prevent Gun Violence-Westchester, said he’s received more than 5,700 signatures on his MoveOn petition demanding gun shows be banned at the County Center.
Bell encouraged others to think of creative ways the community can motivate people to pressure the Board of Legislators’ seven Republicans and one Conservative who opposed the ban into changing their minds.
“We should have an appropriate sense of optimism and hope that we can actually prevail on this,” Bell said.
Barry Graubart, member of Mom’s Demand Action, agreed. He said more needs to be done for the community than writing complaints on Facebook.
“I know that it’s frustrating to many of us, that even though there are some good Republicans out there, when it comes to gun laws we lose. But we can’t lose,” Lowey said. “The only way we can change this is being outspoken and making our voices heard.”
Since the gun show, the Board of Legislators is working on bipartisan legislation to strengthen gun show regulations throughout the county. The proposed law, based on state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s agreement with gun show purveyors to guarantee safety provisions, has been returned to committee for strengthening and clarification.
Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said there is very little oversight from the county Department of Public Safety in non-county owned venues and that more coordination is needed with local police departments.