Saturday, March 8, 2014
By MARK SCHLINKMANN St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. CHARLES, Mo. - Shoppers who crowded into the St. Charles Convention Center in Missouri Friday for the opening day of a weekend gun show said they strongly disagreed with calls for tougher gun regulations in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
"Something like Connecticut is unstoppable," said Dee Belmar, 39, a factory worker from St. Louis, as he stood near a sales display of shotguns and semi-automatic guns.
"All they're going to do basically is criminalize the law-abiding citizen. Criminals aren't going to obey any laws."
Belmar was among hundreds of people who filed past about 500 tables full of firearms, knives and related items on sale. A hunter and sports shooter, he came to the event - the RK Gun and Knife Show - to buy ammunition.
He and others said improving mental health care and screening is a better approach than proposals such as banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Brian Storm, 53, a photographer from O'Fallon, Mo., said more people with severe mental problems should be placed in institutions, as in the past.
Josh Geiler, a gun store owner in St. Francois County, who is among about 80 vendors at the St. Charles event, said new gun restrictions wouldn't prevent tragedies like the shootings that left 20 children and six adults dead at the school in Newtown on Dec. 14. "Someone could come in here and blow himself up" and harm others as well, he pointed out.
Sue Brenner, 52, of Ballwin, a St. Louis suburb, had a similar view. "The crazies are still going to get whatever they want to do whatever they want, whether it's a gun" or some other weapon, she said. Brenner wasn't shopping herself but was accompanying her husband, Fred, who was.
Rex Kehrli, the Iowa-based promoter who puts on the show twice a year in St. Charles, said assigning police to schools and arming school personnel would have a better chance than gun restrictions at stopping mass shootings.
"What I've seen on both sides is a lot of emotion; it's completely understandable in a situation like this," he said. "Everybody needs to settle down and have a rational discussion about what's really going to work."
In Missouri, the Legislature next year will consider a bill by state Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, to allow teachers and other school administrators to carry concealed firearms on school property with proper licensing. House GOP leaders are among supporters.
Meanwhile, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, says she'll push a bill to require criminal background checks for all buyers of firearms at gun shows in the state.
That would plug the so-called "gun show loophole" in Missouri that allows unlicensed dealers at such events to refrain from conducting the checks required at licensed gun stores.
Kehrli says he's neutral on that issue and that each state should decide what works best. He said, though, that such a law wouldn't affect his shows much because more than 95 percent of the vendors taking part are licensed dealers who already do background checks.
The St. Charles show opened amid a nationwide surge in demand for firearms, ammunition and bulletproof gear since the Newtown massacre.
The Associated Press reported Friday that assault rifles are sold out across the country.
Kehrli, the show promoter, said there are such guns available at the event in St. Charles, although he didn't know whether the number was less than usual. The Associated Press
BANGUI, Central African Republic- Central African Republic's neighbors agreed on Friday to dispatch a contingent of soldiers to intervene in the troubled country, where a coalition of rebel groups is seeking to overthrow the president of nearly a decade.
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