WATERTOWN — Robert Simpson, president of Jefferson County Fair, just wanted to avoid getting in the middle of the country’s gun debate.
That’s why he and the fair board decided last week to deny a request by a gun group to rent a booth at the fair to sell raffle tickets for three guns.
“The fair is not pro-gun or anti-gun,” Mr. Simpson said Monday night.
Shooters Committee On Political Education, known as SCOPE, made the request a few weeks ago. SCOPE is a statewide organization dedicated to educating people about their Second Amendment rights.
The fair board made the decision before last week’s fatal shootings of black men in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, La., and the subsequent killing of five police officers at a Dallas anti-violence rally, Mr. Simpson said.
“It had nothing to do with what happened last week,” he said, adding the fair did not want to become entangled in the country’s gun controversy.
The gun group initially indicated that the guns need not to be present in the booth, so fair officials agreed that SCOPE could still have a table set up to educate the public about guns.
In the end, fair officials determined SCOPE had no interest in just letting the public know about guns, Mr. Simpson said.
“Their only interest is selling raffle tickets for the guns,” he said.
The fair’s decision has angered some local gun owners and SCOPE members.
“They’re bad-mouthing the fair. We didn’t want controversy,” said Mr. Simpson, who recalled a few years ago when an animal rights group criticized the fair for having a lion and tiger act.
The fair has since received numerous phone calls and emails opposing the decision.
In an email, SCOPE member Curtis Cappellano, from East Greenbush, near Albany, wrote he was disappointed the fair would not allow the organization to have a table because it was determined that “guns were controversial.”
“SCOPE provides information on Second Amendment issues pertaining to New York. I’m sure a large percentage of your patrons are hunters and have questions about the SAFE Act and other new gun related legislation,” he wrote. “Making SCOPE known as a source of information for them provides a valuable community service to your patrons.”
One local gun owner has decided to boycott the fair this year, Mr. Simpson said.
The 2016 fair opens at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds this morning.
Source: Watertown Daily Times