MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — The threat of tighter restrictions on certain firearms and ammunition helped draw more than 1,000 people to an Atlanta-area gun show Saturday, many of whom lined up in the cold before doors opened.
The Eastman Gun Show in Marietta was held a week after a gunman’s massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
Several attendees told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they came to the show to buy military style weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips that they fear may soon be banned by federal law. President Barack Obama came out this week for tighter restrictions, but it’s not clear they could win congressional approval.
“This is awesome,” said Kevin Law, a gun enthusiast from Woodstock, of the turnout at Saturday’s gun show. “We knew it was going to be like this. People want to protect their rights.”
Many customers left the show with cases of ammunition. They also arranged private sales, the kinds of transactions that are exempt from a federal law that requires a background check for sales by licensed gun dealers.
Flags at Jim Miller Park flew at half-staff in memory of the Newtown victims.
Organizers from Easton Gun Shows did not respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.
Obama has called for renewing a ban on the kinds of weapons and ammunition that were limited under the Brady Act, which expired in 2004. Many Democrats also have called for closing the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks and paper records of all gun sales.
Scott Burt of Paulding County told the newspaper that such laws wouldn’t have saved any of the victims in Connecticut. “It’s God-awful what happened but it wasn’t the gun’s fault,” he said.
The White House has not proposed specific legislation, but the president has signaled that the issue will be on the front burner in 2013.
Scott Austin, who owns Tucker Gun LLC on U.S. 29 in Tucker, told the newspaper it is “the apocalypse of gun control.”
He said he does not see the need for the military-style guns commonly called “assault weapons,” but he said the issue is individual liberty. “This is America; you buy what you want,” he said.
Still, Austin said he could accept expanded requirements for background checks.
Besides debate in Washington, state legislatures around the country will be debating various proposals when lawmakers convene for their annual sessions in early 2013.
But it seems unlikely that Georgia lawmakers will do much to diminish the state’s standing as one of the most gun-friendly states. In Georgia, gun owners generally do not have to register their weapons but must obtain a permit if they wish to carry it in public. Since 2002, local authorities have issued 730,000 of the conceal-and-carry licenses. The highest annual total was 101,684 in 2008.
State Superintendent of Education John Barge has already endorsed the National Rifle Association’s call for an armed guard in every American school. And Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration has avoided direct questions about gun laws, saying the focus should be on school security, emergency management and mental health services.
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