Has a gun show planned for this Father’s Day weekend at the Kiwanis Ice Arena in Saugerties been canceled? The town government says it has been, and the promoter says it hasn’t been.
The cancellation had been announced last week, at least partly as a result of recent shootings that left the nation in shock and hardened the resolve of people opposed to widespread firearms ownership and a perceived gun culture in the United States.
The promoter, David Petronis of the New East-Coast Arms Collectors’ Association. is saying that news reports of the cancellation were premature.
But while Petronis was telling his supporters that the show was on, Saugerties town supervisor Fred Costello said it was definitely off. “Unfortunately, the controversy and news coverage of the event has generated publicity the promoters could never have had. We have done everything in good faith. The press release [announcing the show was canceled] was written by the promoters with me, and they signed off on it,” Costello said.
Before the controversy gave the show publicity, it was not drawing the kind of support for which the promoters had hoped. “Now everyone knows about the gun show, and when and where it is supposed to take place.”
Costello said the show was off as far as he was concerned. “We will refund his deposit and pay for some of his expenses,” he said.
While the skating rink has been a venue for firearms shows in the past, it was not a good location for such events, Costello said. It is less than 1000 feet from Saugerties High School and close to a playground.
Petronis still expressed confidence that the show would go on. In a letter he said he sent to the Saugerties town board, Petronis wrote, “It has been reported that I, as president of this company, and while holding a current and approved contract by the Saugerties town board, had canceled this upcoming event. There is more to that story, and let me tell you what the details were and why now I still do intend to proceed with our gun show.”
In the letter, Petronis states that he receieved a conference call from Costello, police chief Joseph Sinagra and Rob Kleeman asking him if he would cancel the upcoming gun show. His answer was that he could, if he so desired, but he did not intend to cancel.
The supervisor and police chief said they were concerned that there could be trouble. Petronis said in his letter, and the chief confirmed, that four police officers would be assigned to assure order at a cost of $2000.
In a call the next day, Costello and Sinagra agreed that three police officers would be sufficient, reducing the cost to $1800. If any violence broke out, the show would have to close down, Petronis asserted.
Town officials and Petronis finally agreed on a joint statement postponing the show. It was published before Petronis could notify the dealers of the cancellation, however, he stated in his letter.
“At this point I am asking the town board to disregard my statement that I will cancel the gun show, but rather that I be allowed to continue with my contract as written and of your agreement,” Petronis said. “I want to proceed with our Father’s Day NEACA Arms Fair at the Kiwanis Arena on June 17, 18, 19.”
Petronis said he had polled all his exhibitors, “and they again would welcome the opportunity to come back to your great little town. Please inform me of your receipt of this letter and of your desire to fulfill your agreement to hold our show. Even after all this misunderstanding, I hope we can all still be cordial and friendly.”
The letter is linked to the NEACA web page, with the label, “Saugerties gun show rescind cancellation.” The statement on the web page, addressed to dealers, NEACA members and interested parties, said the show would go on as planned, and asked the recipients to spread the word.
“I still need to fill tables. In polling my exhibitors, they all want to still come, and they see a great show going forward,” the message on Petronis’s website said. “The advertising by flyer and posters has been out for two months, and now with all this controversy in the papers and on line we should get a huge crowd, if nothing else from the gun-owning public than just sticking the liberals in the eye with a good show of support for our show.” the message on Petronis’s web site states. Petronis noted that in Saratoga “7000 people turned out to support our show when the libs wanted it canceled!”
Was the off-then-on-again series of announcements publicity for the show? Definitely, Costello said.
The town board is expected to discuss a resolution to cancel the show and refund the fees the promoters have paid at its meeting this Wednesday, June 15.