Confusion over whether this weekend's gun show at NY fairgrounds is a "sensitive space"

Confusion over whether this weekend's gun show at NY fairgrounds is a "sensitive space"
(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass)

More than 800 exhibitors and vendors, along with thousands of attendees, are expected to throng the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse this weekend for a big gun show hosted by the New York State Arms Collectors Association, but there’s still a lot of confusion over whether or not the space where the show will take place is a gun-free zone off limits to concealed carry.

Last month, the Albany Times-Union reported that the fairgrounds is included in the expansive list of “sensitive spaces” where concealed carry is banned, though the new law doesn’t prohibit firearms from being offered for sale on the grounds of the state-owned property.

The State Fair, according to its rules of conduct, are only allowing law enforcement and peace officers, limiting the range under the state’s updated laws. It does not indicate that former law enforcement or military members are permitted to carry at the fair.
“The fair has a longstanding policy of banning guns on the fairgrounds, and this policy has not changed,” spokeswoman Jola Szubielski said in a statement Tuesday.
Visitors attending the gun show at the State Fair can bring firearms for the purposes of selling and trading as long as they are unloaded and in safe condition.

Here’s where it gets confusing. WSYR-TV in Syracuse reported earlier today that licensed concealed carry holders can lawfully carry at the gun show, despite the fact that fairgrounds is a “sensitive space.”

According to state officials, the Center of Progress Building where the show is held does not fall under the “sensitive spaces” category, meaning guns can still be carried during the duration of the show.

The governor’s office issued the following statement Thursday:

“Governor Hochul led the fight to pass new laws that protect public safety and address gun violence. The new gun safety law allows gun shows to occur, and organizations hosting these events should work with property owners and vendors to ensure they can legally and safely proceed.”

We also reached out to the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office which will be providing security at the show and operating a booth for the Pistol License Unit. The Sheriff’s Office says it hasn’t been notified of any additional changes that will impact the Gun Show.

If you’re attending you can still bring your legal guns including your concealed carry and any long guns you plan to sell at the show. Just like in years past, guns must be unloaded and checked at the entrance with law enforcement for the duration of your stay at the show unless you’re paid or hired security.

The WSYR-TV story doesn’t make any sense to me. If state officials say the building where the gun show is held doesn’t fall under the list of “sensitive spaces” where concealed carry is banned, then guns shouldn’t have to be unloaded and checked at the entrance with law enforcement. If, on the other hand, the fairgrounds is a sensitive space under NY law, then any concealed carry holder who sets foot on the property is committing a felony if they have their concealed handgun on them.

Is concealed carry allowed or banned at this weekend’s gun show at the New York State Fairgrounds? After reading multiple news stories with multiple sources I have no earthly idea. I suspect, however, that while unloaded firearms for display and sale may be permitted on the fairgrounds property, licensed concealed carry will not be.

How strictly that will be enforced by the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, especially given the confusion over the policy, remains to be seen. Frankly, though, the lack of clarity in the law is a feature and not a bug of the new legislation as far as gun control activists and anti-gun politicians are concerned. The more chaos and head-scratching the new laws sow among legal gun owners trying to exercise their right to bear arms, the more likely they are to decide its simply not worth the legal liability that comes from even inadvertently entering a “sensitive place.”

Given California’s push to ban gun shows on state property, including many county fairgrounds, I’m actually surprised New York Democrats didn’t slip a similar ban into the legislation they rushed into law a couple of months ago. That’s probably just around the corner, though, given the hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms displayed by the party in power in Albany. In the meantime, though, let’s just hope that the confusion over the current laws doesn’t lead to criminal charges this weekend for any concealed carry holder who’s been told by local media that the gun show at the state fairgrounds isn’t a gun-free zone.