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January 6, 2013

Gun shows face new scrutiny after school shooting

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Missing from the gun show here next weekend will be some of the most popular guns.

Show organizers, facing pressure after last month’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut, agreed to bar the display and sale of AR-15 military-style semiautomatic weapons and their large-clip magazines.

“The majority of people wanted these guns out of the city,” said Chris Mathiesen, Saratoga Springs’ public safety commissioner. “They don’t want them sold in our city, and I agree. Newtown, Conn., is not that far away.”

Though gun advocates aren’t backing down from their insistence on the right to keep and bear arms, heightened sensitivities and raw nerves since the Newtown shooting are softening displays at gun shows and even leading officials and sponsors to cancel the well-attended exhibitions altogether.

The mayor of Barre, Vt., wants a ban on military-style assault weapons being sold at an annual gun show in February. Mayor Thom Lauzon says he supports responsible gun ownership but is making the request “as a father.” The police chief in Waterbury, Conn., just a few miles from Newtown, has halted permits for gun shows, saying he was concerned about firearms changing hands that might one day be used in a mass shooting.

Gun dealers around the country are reporting a spike in sales of semiautomatic rifles amid renewed talk of a federal ban on assault weapons. The possibility of tighter gun control has also pumped up attendance at gun shows in several states.

Marv Kraus, who helped organize a weekend gun show in Evansville, Wis., said business has been especially strong lately.

“The gun sales have been crazy. They are going through the roof,” said Joel Koehler, a gun dealer who operates shows in Pennsylvania. While a few dealers have dropped out of this weekend’s show in the Pocono Mountains, Koehler said, it’s “because they have nothing to sell. They are out of inventory.”

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