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Kirkland residents protest decision to allow gun show at arena

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 3/30/18

CLINTON — With moments of unruliness that had to be quelled by law enforcement, at least 70 local residents came out to protest the hosting of a gun show June 8-10 at Clinton Arena at the Kirkland …

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Kirkland residents protest decision to allow gun show at arena

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CLINTON — With moments of unruliness that had to be quelled by law enforcement, at least 70 local residents came out to protest the hosting of a gun show June 8-10 at Clinton Arena at the Kirkland Town Board meeting Wednesday.

A community group, No Gun Shows Near Our Clinton Playground, had already protested the decision to host the New East Coast Arms Collectors Associates show so close the playground and Clinton Central School, submitting a signed petition to the town board.

But community members Wednesday didn’t just protest the proximity of the show to where children learn and play, but the owner of the show as well.

Residents claimed that New East Coast Arms Collectors Associates President David Petronis has posted “racist, sexist and anti-Muslim” statements on his website’s blog, Dave’s World, at http://neaca.com/daves-world. Community members spoke out about not wanting their hometown associated with his ideals and opinions .

“People in this town don’t want” to be associated with Petronis and someone of his beliefs, said resident Francisco Quintana. “Would you want to host a KKK group and let them have a workshop on how to make a hood?,” he asked the town board members.

Supervisor Robert J. Meelan’s response: “We’ll review it,” followed by claps from the crowd.

But toward the beginning of the meeting, a man asked, “How many kids were killed in school shootings over the last 20 years?,” with someone shouting out in response “One is too many!” The man further stated that more children were killed from cellphone use and questioned why there should be a concern over hosting a gun show.

As some members of the crowd erupted, Kirkland Police Chief Daniel English intervened, “Calm down and talk reasonably!” The chief warned area residents that if they couldn’t remain civil, the meeting would be adjourned.

In the meantime, as some stood to voice their concerns, others held protest signs pointing out some previous statements made by Petronis. One read, “Are these Kirkland values?: ‘Are Target stores really on Target with white and blacks cooking and dancing together?’” Other signs included additional quotes from the gun show owner.

“Dave Petronis is not welcome in our town. Find a different gun show owner,” said Jennifer Kemp, adding that such a show should not be held at the arena, especially considering the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Edward Grant stated that he owned a gun and had no problem with people owning guns, however had a “problem with having the show in the area selected for Kirkland” where his grandchildren skate and is in close proximity where they attend school.

He and other crowd members stated that if the town was unable to get out of its contract with Petronis at this time, then the board should not renew it for next year.

Meelan argued that the first petition against the gun show was about its location, not its owner, noting that reports indicated that the show would be located right across from the school, which was false. Several attendees disagreed.

As for Petronis’ reputation, “It’s not our job to look at that,” Supervisor Meelan said, adding that the board followed proper protocol in approving the gun show contract.

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