Connecticut gun show goes on despite Newtown tragedy

STAMFORD, Connecticut Sun Jan 6, 2013 8:06am IST

A row of shotguns are seen during the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Stamford, Connecticut, January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A row of shotguns are seen during the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Stamford, Connecticut, January 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

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STAMFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - An antique gun show went ahead as planned on Saturday 40 miles (64 km) from the site of the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, even as other gun shows gave in to pressure to cancel after the tragedy.

The two-day East Coast Fine Arms show at a Stamford hotel, the first in Connecticut since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school, drew several hundred people, some of whom were disappointed that more modern weaponry was not available.

"It's neat, it's different but it's not what I expected," said Sue McCrery of Southington, a town that borders Newtown. "I mean the bad guys can have them (modern weapons) and I think it's our right to be able to own them too."

Other gun shows canceled, include one this weekend in Danbury, about 12 miles (20 km) from Newtown, promoter Big Al's Silver Bullet Productions announced on its website. Two shows in New York state - February 23-24 in Poughkeepsie and March 2-3 in Suffern - were also canceled, the website site.

In nearby Waterbury, Police Superintendent Michael Gugliotto imposed a moratorium on gun shows the day after the Sandy Hook killings, saying a gun used in a future mass shooting could be traced to a purchase made at a gun show in his city.

Westchester Collectors Inc had planned a firearm and knife show for Waterbury on January 12 and 13. Show organizer Newman Chitenden said canceling the show would not improve security.

Stamford's Republican mayor, Michael Pavia, had asked organizers of the Stamford show to reconsider having the event "in light of the recent tragic events in Newtown."

"As a community, we are sensitive to the emotions and feelings of all of those who have suffered losses and are still grieving. Holding such an event - at this time, and in such close proximity to the Newtown, seems untimely and insensitive," Pavia said.

But organizers went ahead, emphasizing that theirs was an antiques event, where the weapons are less deadly and sometimes just for show. The shooter in Newtown used a military-style semi-automatic assault rifle to kill first-graders aged 6 and 7 and school staff.

"This show is primarily a collectors show, most of us here have strictly antiques," said Dave Kleiner, an antique weapons dealer from Orrtanna, Pennsylvania. "Closing the gun show? How is that going to help anyone that was hurt in that episode?"

Gun shows - akin to a fair, where guns are on sale outside the normal confines of a gun shop - have come under scrutiny for so-called loopholes that sometimes allow sales without subjecting purchasers to a background check.

Henry Wong, who was attending the Stamford show from Long Island, New York, said he frequents antique gun shows because he sees the weapons as historical artifacts.

"I don't shoot at all," Wong said. "To me owning a gun is like owning a hammer."

A handful of protesters passed out handbills that called the gun show insensitive.

"After what happened only 40 miles from here there has to be changes to laws and stricter gun control in order to keep everyone safe," said one of the protesters, Stamford resident Robin Wexler, a member of the group Moms Against Guns.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Mohammad Zargham)

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