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'It's A Constitutional Right,' Astorino Defends Controversial Gun Show's Return To White Plains

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A gun show making a return to Westchester County is once again causing controversy.

The show in White Plains had been on hiatus for several years, but now it's coming back to a facility owned by the county.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, next month when paying customers file through the metal detectors at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, the weapons will already be inside.

"It just looks violent, those two words," Giselle Restrepo said.

After an absence of several years, the Gun And Knife Show is returning, and with it the controversy about hosting a forum for firearms sales on county property.

"For the few dollars we're going to get to have 350 tables of people pushing guns and knives, we don't need to take dollars from that industry," Legislature Chairman, Michael Kaplowitz (D), said.

The shows were banned in 1999 after the mass school shooting at Columbine, brought back in 2009, when Republican Rob Astorino (R) became county executive, then cancelled again four years ago after Sandy Hook, now it's back.

"Just because some people don't want it you also have to respect the rights of people who do want it," Astorino said.

The political optics of this seem to be intentional. Sources told CBS2's Young that Democrats on the county legislature have avoided an outright ban on the shows because they were assured nothing like this was planned.

The surprise annoys them.

"We had an agreement that there would be no gun shows and he snuck it into the Christmas-New Year's holiday season, I guess hoping that nobody would notice," Kaplowitz said.

Others have suggested that Astorino is looking beyond county politics.

"The county executive is running for governor and I think he's trying to appeal to the right wing Republicans in the state," Greenburgh Town Supervisor, Paul Feiner (D) said.

"It's a constitutional right. It is also one of the most popular shows we've had at the county center," Astorino said.

As with everything else in the body politic these days, people seem to be of two minds.

"It's an organized event, just like any other event," Matt Hughes said.

"Why would you bring that here? I did a cheerleading competition here, a basketball tournament here, yeah I don't think that should be associated with," Kaitlyn Talendi said.

The show is set to go on the day after Inauguration Day, the county legislature said it will consider a ban on similar shows, the county executive has vowed to veto the measure if they do.

Astorino said New York State allows gun shows on its property, in fact he said on the same days as the White Plains show, similar events are being hosted near Poughkeepsie and Albany.

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