Witness for Peace Planned for City Center Gun Show
A local group, the Saratoga Peace Alliance, has received a city permit to hold a rally outside the NEACA Gun Fair at the Saratoga Springs City Center January 12. The event, say organizers, is not called a protest because they will not be protesting anything. Instead, says member Linda LeTendre, they hope to foster a dialogue with gun owners about how to end gun violence in the nation. “We really want to support responsible gun owners while also supporting meaningful protections for all of us.”
The theme of the event, she says, is “how can we work together to end gun violence,” not how to get rid of guns.
Gun ownership, says LeTendre, is a complex issue. At least two people involved in the group’s planning process own guns, and wanted to make sure the event was not critical of legal gun ownership. “Too often folks like us get painted as gun grabbers – we want to get rid of all guns. And I think that’s a mythology the NRA (National Rifle Association) exploits.
“Our point was to try to begin to have a rational dialogue about this. There’s a lot of common ground between ‘let’s get rid of all guns’ and ‘citizens can own anything.’ Those are the two polar opposites, and I think often this whole debate gets split into those two polar opposites before there can even be a good conversation.”
The group will be holding a silent witness during the gun show. Group member James Fulmer says that means offering support in some way. “Showing compassion for anyone who has been affected by gun violence. I think it’s up to each individual (how they show witness). I do it by prayer.”
Fulmer says in addition to holding witness, the group also hopes to be able to talk with people attending the event. “What I really hope for is that it’s an opportunity to discuss with gun owners to see what we have in common. Not to go back and forth about our differences.”
And LeTendre says they will also invite gun show participants to a local coffee shop for conversation. “If we’re going to tout ourselves as the Saratoga Peace Alliance then we need to listen, and ask how we do this.”
The gun show has been the focus of much attention ever since the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut on December 14. The Saratoga City Council passed a non-binding resolution Wednesday night asking that exhibiters at the show not offer semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines for exhibit or sale. On Thursday show promoter David Petronis agreed to require exhibitors to honor the council resolution.
A petition has also been circulated asking that the gun show be cancelled, while another petition offers support for the show to continue.
David Petronis says he doesn’t expect there to be any problems related to the Peace event. “I hope not, no. I don’t think so.” But when asked if he thought the gathering might lead to a conversation between gun owners and those from the Peace Alliance, he gave a short answer. “Well, the conversation is not going to be done there (at the show).”
The permit itself has become the focus of some controversy. According to state law, such permits are considered public documents. Their purpose, according to Robert Freeman of the New York Department of State’s Committee on Open Government, is to show the public who has applied for a legal permit to participate in a public gathering.
However, the city has so far refused to release either the entire document requesting the permit, or the complete permit itself.
The Saratogian, a local newspaper, submitted a FOIL request for information from the permit last week. By law the city is required to respond to such requests within five business days. The document was not sent to The Saratogian until late this week, and the document that was finally sent to both The Saratogian and to Saratoga Wire was heavily redacted. The only identifying information left untouched was the name of the group filing for the permit.
City Attorney Joe Scala Thursday scolded a reporter for Saratoga Wire who tried to inquire about why the information was redacted. “You can’t come in here and shout at me in my office,” he said.
According to Freeman, there is case law regarding the right to privacy of someone acting as a representative of an organization applying for such permits. “In my opinion there would be nothing private about that,” he says.
When asked, Scala would not explain why he considered such information private. However, Amy Rich of the City Attorney’s Office did send the redacted document with an e-mail that stated, “Please note that some material consisting of personal information has been redacted in accordance with Public Officers Law §87(2)(b).” (Hyperlink has been added by Saratoga Wire)
That law then refers to Section 89, which offers a number of reasons why personal information might be withheld.
So far, the city has not indicated what exemption they believe this public information falls under.
ON THE WIRE