By CRAIG FREILICH
Even though tough new gun control legislation was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week, gun shows in St. Lawrence County were already safer than many elsewhere in the nation.
That’s because anyone who sells at gun shows such as those that take place twice a year in West Potsdam and Parishville has to be a federally licensed gun dealer, which is not the case at many shows.
Federally licensed gun dealers are required to run background checks on potential purchasers, according to Bob Phillips, who helps organize of the Parishville Sportsmen’s Club gun and knife shows.
At many if not most gun shows around the country, sales are made in a much more casual manner, individual to individual, collector to collector, and as long as the seller is not regularly engaged in gun sales, he or she does not need a federal license and the background check is not required.
Phillips says club members have not yet discussed any modifications to how they run the program following the recent killings of elementary school students in Connecticut and firefighters in Webster. The February meeting will be the first chance the club will have to discuss how recent events might affect their show.
He said it’s clear “a lot of people disagree” about different parts of the gun control discussion, already one of the most contentious issues in the country.
“I think something has to be done,” Phillips said, “but some people want to go too far. I just hope they don’t end up wanting to take guns away from people. The gangsters will get guns anyway.”
But he agrees magazines with many rounds of ammunition should not be sold. “I disagree that people need 30 bullets” in an ammunition magazine, he said.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said one aspect of the gun control issue on his mind is how society deals with the mentally ill.
“We need to look at the issue of the number of mentally ill people in prisons and county jails across the nation, and the number of interactions police have with the mentally ill on the street on a regular basis,” he said. “There is concern in law enforcement about treatment and follow-up.”
Both gun control opponents and advocates, in may cases, say they want to find ways to identify potentially dangerous people and keep them from doing ruinous things with firearms. “Everyone wants to blame guns, but not the root cause,” Sheriff Wells said.
Phillips said the lack of a requirement that gun show vendors be federally licensed is viewed as a “loophole” by many people. They see that lack of a requirement as a flaw in trying to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and others who might present a risk through irresponsible gun ownership.
The next gun show in the Greater Canton-Potsdam area, “The Biggest Little Gun Show in Upstate NY,” takes place Feb. 23 and 24 at the West Potsdam Fire Department Bingo Hall.