TUCSON — A week after a gunman killed six people and wounded 13 during a rampage at a political gathering here, several thousand people, many toting unloaded handguns and rifles, packed a nearby fairgrounds Saturday for a previously scheduled gun show.
On sale were Glock 19 handguns and the type of extended ammunition magazines allegedly used Jan. 8 by the gunman -- and now a catalyst for a renewed national gun debate in the wake of the mass shooting.
Bob Templeton, president of the company sponsoring the Crossroads of the West Gun Show, said organizers considered postponing the event because of the shooting, which critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), but decided that it was appropriate to proceed.
"This is not about legal firearms and folks who attend gun shows, but about a deranged person who was determined to commit mayhem," Templeton said as buyers crowded around tables stocked with handguns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday, January 17, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Arizona gun show: In some editions of the Jan. 16 Section A, an article about a gun show in Tucson said Charles Heller, secretary of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, attended the event carrying a Glock, a short-barreled revolver and a Caltech 380 pistol. The last gun was a Kel-Tec 380.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 23, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Arizona gun show: In some editions of the Jan. 16 Section A, an article about a gun show in Tucson said that Charles Heller, secretary of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, attended the event carrying a Glock, a short-barreled revolver and a Caltech 380 pistol. The last gun was a Kel-Tec .380.
He said calls to cancel the show were designed "to further a political agenda." He wore a Colt 380 pistol in a hip holster -- "just to assert my right to do so," he said.
Some gun control advocates have said that holding a gun show so soon after a mass shooting was inappropriate and insensitive. They contend that stricter laws on purchases of guns and ammunition would help prevent shooting rampages.
But even as Tucson continued to mourn, and shooting victims were commemorated at the crime scene Saturday, Arizona's love affair with guns continued unabated 13 miles away. Buyers bought Glock 19s priced at $499 and 31-round magazines for $21.99.
Many visitors carried pistols and rifles brought from home as they inspected weapons for sale. With live ammunition banned at the show, all weapons were unloaded.
In interviews, several vendors and buyers said they feared last week's shootings would embolden gun control groups to press for legislation to limit gun sales -- and ultimately ban guns altogether.
Under Arizona law, U.S. citizens over 21 may carry concealed weapons without a permit. Proposed legislation in the state would allow teachers and students to carry weapons on college campuses.
If there was a theme to the gathering, it was that more guns in the hands of more law-abiding citizens would increase public safety.
"If one person was carrying and had courage last week, that guy would've only shot once," said vendor Bert Smith of BlackGunStuff, which sells gun equipment.
Threats of organized protests did not materialize, and vendors said sales were strong -- especially for extended ammunition magazines, which some fear could be the target of legislation to ban them.
"I bought eight full-capacity, 19-round magazines," said Charles Heller, secretary of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a gun rights lobbying group.
Heller was carrying three concealed handguns -- a Glock, a short-barreled revolver and a Kel-Tec 380 pistol. He said banning sales of extended-capacity magazines would not have prevented last week's shootings.
"If you're going to misbehave with 33 rounds, you're likely to misbehave with 19," he said.
Templeton said gun owners sympathize with the shooting victims, but blame the shooter rather than his weapon. A U.S. flag outside the main exhibit hall was at half-staff, and a donation box for shooting victims -- next to a National Rifle Assn. poster -- filled up with dollar bills as the day wore on.
At 12:15 p.m., at Templeton's request, vendors and buyers lowered their heads for a minute of silence in tribute to the shooting victims. Earlier, the show's organizers held a mass recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Crossroads of the West, based in Utah, holds 52 shows a year, Templeton said. For the last 12 years, five annual shows have been held in Tucson.
Some 5,000 to 6,000 people -- the typical turnout at previous shows -- were expected to attend Saturday and Sunday, paying a $10 entry fee, Templeton said.
"It's definitely busier than normal, with a lot of curiosity about what might happen" following the shootings, said Bradley Cooper, one of 200 exhibitors at the show.
Jeff White, 42, an information technology supervisor at a local college, waited 15 minutes for a licensed gun salesman to process a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form he had filled out.
After taking White's driver's license and phoning his information in to the ATF, the salesman told White he been cleared.
White paid $119.95 in cash, plus tax, for a Marlin 81 .22-caliber rifle.
"I was surprised it went so fast," White said. He had assumed that gun applications would be delayed following the shootings.