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McKinstry: Astorino makes the right call cancelling the Westchester gun show

An assortment of rifles line tables at a

An assortment of rifles line tables at a gun and knife show in White Plains, N.Y. Credit: AP, 2010

County Executive Rob Astorino made the appropriate call this week when he said a gun show wasn’t welcome back at the Westchester County Center.

The decision not to sign a contract with the organizer comes just two years after the first-term Republican re-opened the doors to the Sportsman, Firearm and Knife Show at the county center. His move reversed a decade long ban started by his predecessor, Democrat Andy Spano, who in 1999 instituted one in the wake of the Columbine massacre, where 15 were killed in a school shooting.

Now, with the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the move is prudent given the raw emotions of so many here and elsewhere in the country.

The county center always seemed like an odd place for such an expose. It typically hosted entertainment like the Royal Hanneford Circus, the Nutcracker ballet, Sesame Street, The Beach Boys and scores of other family-friendly entertainment like cat shows, basketball tournaments and other hokey hobbies.

The gun shows were hosted by Westchester Collectors of New York and were scheduled for February and November in 2013, according to the organizer’s web site, where it advertised “buy-sell-trade” all sorts of firearms, antiques, ammo and military style weapons, which could be sold without appropriate background checks because of the so-called “gun show loophole.”

This recent action by the county executive is just one small act. We need a lot more: honest discussions about mental health, individual rights and parental responsibility. And it can’t exclude gun owners, most of whom are law abiding citizens.

President Barack Obama reiterated these points today when he announced a commission – headed by Vice President Joe Biden -- to look at guns and related issues.

“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” the president said.

In Westchester, we have our own issues with guns, particularly in the cities of Mount Vernon and Yonkers. Closing up the gun show won't solve those cities' problems. But it should prompt a discussion.

Shuttering the gun show is one small, if only symbolic, move that should be followed up by many others.