Gun Show Near Newtown Goes On, While Others Rush to Cancel

Mayor says it should have been canceled; gun dealers say it's just business.

ByABC News
January 5, 2013, 9:19 PM

STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 5, 2013— -- A little more than 40 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where last month 20 first graders and six staff members were massacred, gun dealers and collectors alike ignored calls to cancel a gun show, and gathered for business in Stamford, Conn.

Four other gun shows with an hour of Newtown, Conn., recently cancelled their events in the wake of the shootings, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle at close range to kill children and adults at the school.

The organizers in Stamford emphasized their show only displayed antique and collectible guns, not military style assault weapons like the one used by Lanza in Sandy Hook.

Still, Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia had called for the show to close its doors, calling it "insensitive" to hold so close to the murders.

Gun show participant Sandy Batchelor said he wasn't sure about whether going ahead with the show was "insensitive," but said the shooter should be blamed, not the weapons he used.

"I don't have a solid opinion on [whether it is insensitive]," Batchelor said. "I'm not for or against it. I would defend it by saying it wasnt the gun."

In nearby Waterbury, the community cancelled a show scheduled for this weekend.

"I felt that the timing of the gun show so close to that tragic event would be in bad taste," Waterbury Police Chief Chief Michael J. Gugliotti said.

Gugliotti has halted permits for gun shows, saying he was concerned about firearms changing hands that might one day be used in a mass shooting.

Across the state line in White Plains, N.Y, Executive Rob Astorino also canceled a show, three years after ending a had that had been in place since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. He said he felt the show would be inappropriate now.

But across the country, farther away from Connecticut, attendance at gun shows is spiking, and some stores report they can hardly keep weapons on their shelves with some buyers fearful of that the federal government will soon increase restrictions on gun sales and possibly ban assault weapons altogether.

"We sold 50-some rifles in days," said Jonathan O'Connor, store manager of Gun Envy in Minnesota.

President Obama said after the Sandy Hook shooting that addressing gun violence would be one of his priorities and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would introduce an assault weapons ban this month.

But it is not just traditional advocates of gun control that have said their need to be changes in gun laws since the horrific school shooting.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat but a long-time opponent of gun control who like Hutchison has received an A rating from the NRA, have both come out in support of strengthening gun laws.

In Stamford, gun dealer Stuart English said participants at the gun show there are doing nothing wrong.

"I have to make a living. Life goes on," gun dealer Stuart English said.

ABC News asked English, what he thought about the mayor of Stamford calling the show "insensitive."

"He's wrong," English said. "This is a private thing he shouldn't be expressing his opinion on."

If you have a comment on this story or have a story idea, you can tweet this correspondent @greenblattmark.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.