Shooting Debate Moves to Tucson Gun Show

Some question timing of Tucson gun show a week after shootings.

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan. 16, 2011— -- Flags were flown at half staff at the Crossroads of the West Gun show on Saturday outside Tucson, exactly one week after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured at a political gathering with constituents. Six people were killed and 12 others were also wounded.

"Is this an uncomfortable time for you to start this gun show in Tucson?" ABC News' David Wright asked.

"Clearly it's a difficult time, our hearts reach out to those impacted by this tragedy," said Bob Templeton, the event's organizer. We're all part of this community. Gabrielle Giffords was a friend of gun rights. A gun owner herself and an advocate for 2nd amendment rights," said Templeton.

Several thousand people packed the Pima County Fairgrounds, just 13 miles from the shooting site. Many carried unloaded handguns and rifles as they looked at tables with ammunition and shotguns.

It's unclear if the shootings experience will change Giffords' views on gun control. However in Washington, various lawmakers are already proposing new laws to safeguard lawmakers and keep guns from the mentally ill.

Since 1968, federal law has prohibited the sale of guns to individuals declared mentally ill. But diagnosis is not enough – a court has to order treatment, which never happened in accused gunman Jared Loughner's case.

However, many states impose even tougher restrictions. Some states, including Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina, refuse guns to people who have voluntarily committed themselves to psychiatric treatment. Others require potential gun buyers to waive all rights to privacy of their mental health records. Some require potential buyers to obtain their license from law enforcement, forcing a face to face interaction.

"If the shooter in Tucson had gone to any law enforcement authority, and they had spent any amount of time with him, just seconds with him, they would have been suspicious," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence.

But the gun show's organizer doesn't see extra restrictions as the answer.

"We need to achieve a balance between privacy and individual rights. Just because 1 person in 300 million commits a senseless act we can't punish all gun owners," said Templeton.

Still, others in the community found the timing of the show insensitive.

"I think that's rubbing salt in a raw wound," said Helmke. "While we know that this individual apparently did not get his gun from a gun show, a lot of the dangerous people that get guns in this country get them from gun shows."

But that argument doesn't go over so well in gun country.

"I don't agree that restrictions on firearms ownership or guns or ammunition or indeed even high capacity clips are the answer or the solution -- or even part of the solution, " said Templeton.

"This is not about legal firearms and folks who attend gun shows, but about a deranged person who was determined to commit mayhem," Templeton told the Los Angeles Times. He said organizers originally considered postponing the show, but decided to move forward with their plans. Templeton also said any cries to cancel the show were meant to "further a political agenda."

In fact, gun sales have increased across the country since the shooting.

Last Monday, dealers in Arizona reported a 60 percent jump in one-day handgun sales. Across the state, the hottest seller has been the Glock 19, the same gun used in the massacre.

In Ohio, sales were up 65 percent, in Illinois 38 percent, and in New York 33 percent.

At a nearby gun range, the shooting has prompted debate on an issue they say does not have any clear solutions.

"It breaks my heart. This is an American tragedy," said David Daughtry, a shooting instructor. "I know of no one who thinks anything other than that. I wish i had all the answers but I do think the answer lies in better identifying those that truly need care."