Gun enthusiasts attend the National Rifle Assn. annual convention in Houston.… (Aaron M. Sprecher / European…)
HOUSTON -- When the annual National Rifle Assn. convention opened Friday, the day after an incident in which a gunman died at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, attendees didn't shy away from discussing the incident.
In fact, it was a hot topic of conversation as visitors arrived--many of them traveling through the airport hours after the shooting that left the gunman, identified as a local man, dead.
"They go to those places because they're gun-free zones," said Tilman Hollifield, 63, of Terre Haute, Ind., said of assailants like the airport gunman.
The shooter, 29-year-old Beaumont janitor Carnell Moore, fired at the ceiling in an airport ticketing area, apparently to clear the area of bystanders. He was shot in the shoulder by a Department of Homeland Security agent and then fatally shot himself in the head, authorities said. Moore left behind a suicide note indicating he had been resisting "the monster within me," officials said.
Dale Clemons, of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Assn., came from the Poconos in Pennsylvania to staff a booth at the NRA convention, and said the airport shooter was clearly unbalanced, a case of "suicide by cop." He said an assault-rifle ban wouldn't stop such shootings.
"Anyone who thinks outlawing the AR-15 is going to stop crime needs to take their rose-colored glasses off," Clemons said.
John Dixon, 67, of Houston agreed. He opposes an assault-rifle ban because he said it's a slippery slope from there to regulating gun ownership, which he believes protects his family. Dixon, a retired electrician, said he'd like to see better enforcement of existing laws against selling guns illegally, or to the mentally ill, especially in the wake of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.
"It hurts me, too, to see these kids die. But I'm not going to see my family hurt," he said.
Erica Lafferty, 27, disagreed. An advocate for gun control including expanded background checks, Lafferty lost her mother at Newtown: Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung. Lafferty was preparing to fly to Bush airport from Connecticut on Thursday when she heard about the shooting.
"It was ironic," she said as she stood outside the convention hall Friday.
Lafferty said part of the reason she came to town was to remind NRA members and the country about such lives lost to gun violence.
"They need to be held accountable," she said. "As soon as they start to forget, there's another mass shooting."
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