Protesters booed at Utah gun show
Sandy • Maggie Laun and her fellow protesters were booed out of a Utah gun show Saturday one even said he was kicked on the way out the door.
Laun and seven other men and women came to the Rocky Mountain Gun Show to protest the National Rifle Association's call for more guns and to talk to everyday gun owners about reforms and banning assault weapons. After meeting hostility from the people in line inside the South Towne Expo Center, the protesters said they settled on intercepting attendees just outside the doors in frigid temperatures.
"We've had a couple of decent conversations, but [overall] it's been very confrontational and very rude, and that's the bottom line of what concerns me," Laun said.
The protesters a circle of friends not representing any official group wanted to rally support for a national system of background checks, more firearm sales regulations and a ban on assault weapons, among other points. After last month's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the protesters felt that more mass killings will happen unless something changes.
Though as one of the men who stopped to talk to them put it, there are evil people in the world who will commit such acts regardless of laws and by whatever means available.
But the call from the NRA for armed police or guards and from some Utah leaders for armed teachers to combat the next school shooting didn't sit well with the protesters. Stan Holmes, a veteran and world history teacher at Alta High School, said he understands some of his colleagues want to carry concealed weapons but warned that would lead to "bedlam."
"That would be a policeman's nightmare to come into a situation with a bunch of people who are not trained for that kind of a situation. ... That, to me, that's nowhere, that's ridiculous," Holmes said.
But Jodi Lawhorn, helping work an arms booth at the show, doesn't take issue with armed teachers if the educators are willing to assume that responsibility.
Steve Durant, who was there to sell his World War II-era rifle, said he carried a weapon every day when he taught at then-Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University, before he left to fly planes. The teachers weren't armed at Sandy Hook Elementary, and if such tragedies keep ending the same way, perhaps it's time to try something different, he said.
"The safest place is a room entirely filled with [armed] people," said Jim Pomeran, a U.S. Army veteran who has been around guns all his life, motioning to the gun show behind him. Firearms are a way of life in this country, and too many other veterans have died to protect that, he said.
He owns a 12-gauge shotgun, which he noted can be highly destructive, but he said that if someone tries to take it from him, it'll be from "his cold dead hands."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce a bill early this year that would reinstate the ban on assault weapons that she originally sponsored nearly 20 years ago.
That proposal was not a popular one Saturday at the gun show in Sandy.
Greg Bean walked out of the show with a new 9 mm assault rifle under his arm. He said talk of increased regulation or bans is just a knee-jerk reaction and an attempt to take advantage of a tragedy that has horrified both sides of the debate in order to advance a political agenda.
But at least the assault-weapons ban in place for 10 years beginning in 1994 prevented some from getting access, or easy access, to such dangerous weapons, said Holmes.
One protester told Holmes that she had never been treated with such disdain as she was Saturday. But she'll come out and do it again, Holmes said.
"You have to believe you make a difference. These people are our neighbors. The people at the gun show are part of the same mainstream we are," he said.
Thousands turned out for the gun show in Sandy some attendees noting the crowd was bigger than in past years though elsewhere in the country, heightened sensitivities and raw nerves since the Newtown shooting are softening displays at shows and even leading officials and sponsors to cancel the well-attended exhibitions.
In New York's suburban Westchester County, officials decided against hosting a gun show next month at the county center in White Plains, about an hour's drive from Newtown. The mayor of Barre, Vt., also wants a ban on military-style assault weapons being sold at an annual gun show in February.
Three additional shows in New York's Hudson Valley and Danbury, Conn., were listed as canceled on the website for Big Al's Gun Shows. A man who answered the site's contact number told the Associated Press that the venues canceled the shows, not the promoter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.