CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Like many of the pro-gun advocates in the Park Expo and Conference Center Friday, Terry Horner thinks the Colorado theater shooting that left at least 12 dead could have been less severe if others had been armed.
“If someone had had a gun, this would not have happened,” Horner said. “They say where people have guns there is less crime.”
Early Friday morning, a gunman in a gas mask opened fire in a movie theater near Denver during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The suspect, James Holmes, 24, carried an assault-style rifle, a shotgun and two Glock handguns, authorities said. It hasn’t been determined where he got the weapons.
News of the massacre sparked heated reaction from advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate. Some spoke of the need for stricter regulation of gun sales, while others, including Horner, argued that the outcome would have been different if others had guns.
As news of the shooting unfolded, dozens of trucks, RVs and SUVs filled the east Charlotte expo center parking lot in preparation for this weekend’s C&E Gun Show.
Boxes of guns, knives and gun accessories were unloaded into a room larger than a football field in preparation for an event organizers say will draw hundreds of exhibitors and a crowd of about 6,000.
C&E Gun Shows President Steven Elliot said more than 750 tables will be set up – selling everything from handguns to ammunition to coins.
Randy Murray, owner of Randy’s Guns near Mars Hill, said he will have about 400 guns for sale this weekend. His most popular items are handguns.
“We move quite a few guns in Charlotte,” he said.
More than 67,800 gun permits and 16,800 concealed carry handgun permits have been issued in Mecklenburg County since July 2008, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Horner and her husband, Doug, attended their first show in Charlotte about nine years ago.
Horner showcased her “Gun Tote’n Mamas” purses on Friday. The high-end bags have a special pocket where a handgun can be stored and reached easily. They also sell gun slings, holsters and vests.
N.C. low on Brady list
Past shooting tragedies have done little to alter the national debate on gun control, and President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have spoken little about it in their campaigns.
But not everyone was so quiet on the issue Friday. Many took to the Internet to voice their opinions.
Gail Neely, executive director of North Carolinians against Gun Violence, criticized the idea that more people with guns would have stopped the shooter.
“I don’t care if there were 10 people with carry-concealed weapons,” she said. “They could not have stopped it.”
In North Carolina, she said, many gun laws are vague and difficult to enforce. Most people in North Carolina, she said, support stricter regulations of gun sales – even gun owners.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of tougher gun control, ranked Colorado as one of the most lenient states in the nation in terms of gun control. The organization’s report card gave Colorado a failing grade of 15 out of a possible score of 100. North Carolina earned just 16 points.
“While North Carolina has some common sense gun laws, the state lacks many gun laws that would stop the flow of illegal guns and protect children,” the Brady Campaign says.
But show exhibitors on Friday defended gun ownership.
Murray said he believes in access to guns, but he thinks penalties for selling guns to the wrong people should be stricter.
To buy a gun at this weekend’s show, he said, customers must meet the same criteria as in a regular gun shop. Depending on the gun, he said buyers must show a concealed-carry permit, a purchase permit from the Sheriff’s Office or pass a background check.
“The safest place to be is with a guy with a (legally) concealed weapon,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to keep the guns out of the hands of the bad guys. Those guys can’t get them from us.”