The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 15, 2013

As political debate heats up, most show little concern at "Mother of All Gun Shows'


Those products were displayed inside the cavernous convention hall, where some large booths are designed to replicate rustic log cabins and others stream video footage of hunters shooting game in the African bush. Celebrities such as actor Joe Mantegna roam the floor and gun rights advocates hand out bumper stickers: "America: Armed and Free," and "Guns Don't Kill People. People Kill People."

"It's the mother of all gun shows, a gun show on steroids," said one official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak for the agency.

ATF and other law enforcement officials are here. ATF agents set up a large booth next to the gun manufacturers. The FBI has a booth nearby, handing out information promoting its criminal background check system. Federal agents hold seminars for gun dealers on how to adhere to laws governing the sale of guns and how to watch for "straw purchasers," people who illegally buy firearms for others.

One of the most popular booths in past years has been where the Bushmaster rifle was on exhibit — one of the guns used in the Newtown shootings and in the Washington area sniper killings in 2002. Here, people do not call the Bushmaster — or any other AR-15 — an assault weapon. The NSSF has rebranded these firearms "modern sporting rifles."

A previous SHOT show was held 11 days after the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., outside a supermarket in Tucson. Six people were killed; Giffords and a dozen other people were wounded. The gunman used a high-capacity magazine similar to the one used in Newtown. SHOT show attendees that year were focused on doing business and preventing what they feared would be an erosion of their gun-ownership rights.

"What happened in Tucson was not a failure of gun-control laws," Lawrence Keane, general counsel of the NSSF, said after the Giffords shooting. "This was a failure of the mental health system."

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