January 16, 2013

'Mother of all gun shows' a big draw for firearms trade

A convention hall in Las Vegas offers 12.5 miles of more than 1,000 exhibits of weapons and gear.

Sari Horwitz / The Washington Post

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Adam Painchaud of Sig Sauer explains one of the company’s newest products, the MPX 9mm pistol caliber submachine gun, at the 35th annual “SHOT show” Tuesday in Las Vegas. The gun is for military and law enforcement use and not for sale to the public.

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON - President Obama on Wednesday will formally announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearm buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

The announcement will set off a fierce confrontation with Congress over an issue that has riven American society for decades. Obama's far-reaching firearms agenda has at best tepid support from his party leaders and puts him at loggerheads with Democratic centrists.

Days before his second inauguration, Obama is seeking to drive the guns debate in a way that contrasts with the accommodating approach he often took during his first term. In the weeks ahead, he will attempt to rally popular support to bend the will of lawmakers to vote for what he considers the ideal, not merely the possible.

"Yes, we can reduce gun violence, but it's something we have to do together," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. "It's something that cannot be done by a president alone. It can't be done by a single community alone or a mayor or a governor or by Congress alone. We all have to work together."

Obama will begin this effort in the presence of children who wrote him letters after last month's mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and who have been invited to Washington for the rollout.

In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools.

-- The Washington Post

"It's the mother of all gun shows, a gun show on steroids," said one official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak for the agency.

ATF and other law enforcement officials are here. ATF agents set up a large booth next to the gun manufacturers. The FBI has a booth nearby, handing out information promoting its criminal background check system. Federal agents hold seminars for gun dealers on how to adhere to laws governing the sale of guns and how to watch for "straw purchasers," people who illegally buy firearms for others.

One of the most popular booths in past years has been where the Bushmaster rifle was on exhibit -- one of the guns used in the Newtown shootings and in the Washington area sniper killings in 2002. Here, people do not call the Bushmaster -- or any other AR-15 -- an assault weapon. The NSSF has rebranded these firearms "modern sporting rifles."

A previous SHOT show was held 11 days after the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., outside a supermarket in Tucson. Six people were killed; Giffords and a dozen other people were wounded. The gunman used a high-capacity magazine similar to the one used in Newtown. SHOT show attendees that year were focused on doing business and preventing what they feared would be an erosion of their gun-ownership rights.

"What happened in Tucson was not a failure of gun-control laws," Lawrence Keane, general counsel of the NSSF, said after the Giffords shooting. "This was a failure of the mental health system."


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