TUCSON, Ariz. – 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 accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner – 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 shootings, which left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., critically wounded, 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.
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.
Many visitors carried pistols and rifles brought from home as they cradled and 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.
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.