Gun show packs 'em in as enthusiasts fear showdown with government

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 7:20 p.m. MST

“There are people here who have the same concerns we do. They are legitimate gun owners and they are the people who can help turn it around."

Some gun enthusiasts, Holmes added, believe that any strike at reform is a wholesale assault on the Second Amendment.

He says it is not.

“We are not here to take away their guns, we are here to deprive terrorists of guns."

But McKinlay, one of the show’s promoters, said gun owners rightly feel a sense of urgency, evidenced by packed show-sponsored classes for concealed carry permits where hundreds of people filled the room in three separate sessions.

“Most people here at the show, the majority, are law-abiding gun owners who are doing it the right way, the responsible way,” he said.

Fears of a crackdown on ammunition, particularly, were driving the long lines at the show and the even the rumor that .223 rounds for assault rifles were sold out early in the day.

Organizers trucked in plenty and will be able to weather through Sunday’s show, McKinlay said, but added: “It will be close.”

Such concern is ricocheting around the country.

Business Insider reported that a large global supplier of AR-15 ammunition had sold more than a three years’ inventory of magazines in a 72-hour period.

In Layton, a sporting goods store employee said they were out of four varieties of ammunition, including the .223 rounds and the rest was going so fast it was “spooky.”

Erik Westesen and his brother-in-law, Steven Ting, are both gun owners who believe the debate over gun rights and gun control can be elevated to a dimension of rational discussion — without finger-pointing.

“So many people are hard and fast in their opinions,” Ting said. “I think you can come at this with an open-mindedness and willingness to examine the facts.”

The two talked of their www.utahgunowners.com, a discussion board meant to be a prism for information, ideas and discourse. Westesen said he thinks it is sad that so much attention is being put on guns when there is a much greater casualty that society seems to miss.

“People scream that guns should be restricted, but you hardly hear them talk about the mental health of people. Rather than worrying about guns, we need to care more about people,” he said.

If Holmes, the picketer, had been inside, he likely would have told Westesen and Ting they have a real chance to help the country by entertaining some reform of gun laws.

“Help America get out of the firearms crisis we are in,” he said to those headed to the show. “We are here to help the kids who are in jeopardy.”

In the midst of the all the angst over who can own what and how much, members of the Marine Corps League, Utah West Detachment 1332, were manning a booth, selling handmade bracelets to raise money for their cause.

It’s not gun rights.

Victims of domestic violence through the South Valley Sanctuary, hungry people through the Utah Food Bank and needful veterans through the Wounded Warriors project are all recipients of their efforts.

Gunny Monster, their bulldog mascot, attracted show-goers with a dazzling Marine dress uniform he sported with pride.

“He loves to get dressed up,” his owner said.

Another Marine pointed to the display of military rifles roped together, standing like sentries over the booth.

“We’ve had those guns out here all day,” he said with a smile, ”and they haven’t shot anybody.”

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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