BEREA, Ohio - Thousands rushed to the Ohio Gun Knife and Military Show in search of high-powered rifles Saturday.
The gun show, the first in northeast Ohio since the Sandy Hook tragedy, brought a sea of cars and people to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea.
Many came to share their gun hobbies, but even more came in search of the high powered, semi-automatic rifles. Why? Several gun enthusiasts who spoke to NewsChannel5 on Saturday said they're afraid semi-automatic weapons may be soon banned. Several people also said they don't think elimination is the solution.
John Watson said, "Mostly all the weapons here today are semi-automatics. You know, there's nothing wrong with it. You can't do any more damage with that than you can with a 12-gage shotgun that people go out and hunt deer with every season."
Watson said because of recent reports over the Sandy Hook shooting, he believes those outside of the "gun world" have a misconception of the semi-automatic rifles saying, "What they want to call an 'assault rifle' -- really an assault rifle is a fully automatic weapon. We're not allowed them unless you have a special license."
Still semi-automatic gun and high-capacity magazines are the center of the gun control debate now going on in Washington, D.C. Vice President Joe Biden, appointed to lead a special group, plans to make suggestions on gun control to President Obama by Jan. 15.
"Going after high capacity mags, or magazines or 'clips' as some people call them, it's not really fighting the source of the problem," said John. He continued, "it's more a situation where if people were more informed, if every young person went through a safety training program at a civilian marksmanship program, which by the way is sponsored by the government, civilian marksmanship program is designed to teach safety and information."
Safety education and how our society treats mental illness is what those at the gun show said are the real issues.
John Kotlin of Strongsville described knowing someone mentally ill. "He scared the family, he scared the neighbors. They couldn't get him into any program until he did something wrong, then they would take him in. We have to change the laws or rules about mental illness and not wait until somebody does something," said Kotlin.
Interestingly enough, not everyone at the show Saturday said they support the use of semi-automatic weapons, but that doesn't mean they support a possible ban.
A prime example is Lu Weldon, who shoots clay pigeons for sport. When asked if she would "be OK" with a ban on semi-automatic rifles since she doesn't own or fire one, she said, "It's difficult to answer that because I don't know why people buy the semi-automatics. I'm against anything that takes away from the rights that we as Americans have had years after years."
Similar to Weldon, but on the topic of banning high capacity magazines, Kotlin said, "they were saying the hunters want big mags in the guns like 12-15 rounds; a hunter don't need it. If he can't get something in two shots, he shouldn't be in the woods. But as far as this gentleman was saying, to defend your house or something like that, I can see it."
And that's what it comes down to as NewsChannel5 spoke with gun enthusiasts Saturday: defense.
Arnold Frye, a Clevelander and a veteran said, "I think Sandy Hook, the reaction is an overreaction. You can't stop the mentally ill from doing crazy things. They're going to do it. If they have a knife, an ax or whatever, they're going to find a way to kill other people," said Frye. He continued, "To me this whole second issue fuss is about self-defense. If criminals are walking around with high capacity magazines, then law abiding citizens should have high capacity magazines; it's that pure and simple. Do Americans have the right to defend themselves? The Second Amendment says we do and any politician that's trying to take that away is trying to take away from the Constitution, our Constitutional rights."
One person, who asked to not be named, told NewsChannel5 he created a petition requiring home gun safes as a way to attack the problem of gun violence without taking away guns. You can see all of the petitions posted on both sides of the gun control issue by visiting: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/
The gun show runs Saturday, Jan. 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds located at 164 Eastland Road in Berea, Ohio. For information regarding rules and safety regulations and the show and upcoming gun show locations, click here: http://www.ohiogunshows.com/
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