An executive order signed by new County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat, will forbid controversial firearm and knife shows on county-owned property—a move that a new Democratic majority hopes to eventually codify into law.
“This venue was created decades ago,” said Latimer at a Jan. 2 press conference, as he gestured around the Westchester County Center. “It is a tremendous showplace for Westchester County; it is a showplace for family entertainment.”
The executive order will effectively reinstate a ban that was struck down by former County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, upon taking office in 2010. A ban had existed prior to Astorino’s election and was initially signed by former County Executive Andrew Spano, a Democrat, in the wake of the Columbine shootings in Colorado.
Latimer’s executive order—which will not impact the legality of shows on private property—marks a culmination of controversy over the past year which saw Democrats and Republicans, as well as an invigorated electorate, debate whether or not to continue hosting shows.
Earlier this year, a piece of legislation banning the shows was passed by the county Legislature’s Democratic majority but was never signed into law by Astorino who instead vetoed the measure.
While county Democrats contend that the shows would increase the likelihood of illegal gun sales as well as work to promote “gun culture” in Westchester, Republicans maintained that disallowing the shows infringed on residents’ constitutional rights.
One gun show last year turned particularly controversial after a Democratic legislative aide snapped pictures of Confederate and Nazi memorabilia and books being sold and displayed inside the show, giving rise to Democratic calls for its removal.
Last year’s show marked the first in nearly two decades after several were cancelled due to mass shootings in Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The debate over guns in Westchester has also made its way into local conversations, particularly in the town/village of Harrison, the village of Rye Brook, and the town of Mamaroneck, the latter of which briefly attempted to ban carrying weapons on its public property—an initiative that was quickly dropped after vehement public backlash.
Rye Brook, however, successfully passed a local law restricting where gun stores can set up shop last year after a gun store in Harrison began operating in proximity to an elementary school, spurring public outcry. That store continues to operate.
According to Latimer, Democratic lawmakers will work to pass legislation that will ban gun shows on county-owned property in a more permanent fashion this year, aided by the help of a new super majority in the Legislature.
According to tentative dates on a web page for Northeast Collectors, the trade organization that runs Westchester’s gun shows, there were dates already slated for 2018 for another gun show event, but no contract had been agreed to.