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Fear of gun-control legislation brings throng to N.M. show

CARLSBAD, N.M. – Attendance at a southeastern New Mexico gun show scheduled this weekend was expected to double as gun owners race to purchase assault weapons that soon could be banned.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported that vendor space at Carlsbad’s Silver Spur Trade Show had nearly sold out with 150 exhibitor tables, including assortments of new and used guns, swords and ammunition.

Shawn Mitchell, who owns Courtesy Sporting and Pawn in Carlsbad, was helping set up the show and believes more people than usual would be coming because of pending federal proposals aimed at restricting assault weapons.

“People are going to be looking for things that are harder to come by; assault weapons and high-capacity guns that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds,” Mitchell said.

President Barack Obama recently issued 23 executive orders and called for a new assault-weapons ban in response to mass shootings around the nation.

With so much uncertainty about how the president’s orders will affect the availability of guns, many visitors to this weekend’s show won’t have a firearms license, Mitchell said.

A number of Obama’s executive orders have been the subject of controversy among gun lovers. The orders call for major changes to the way background checks are performed.

“The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years, that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said during his Jan. 16 speech.

Requiring a background check for those who buy guns from businesses has directly affected Mitchell at his shop, and if legislation increases those requirements, he’ll have even more paperwork to fill out when selling, he said.

Mitchell said he’s had a rush of customers since December’s shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 students and six adults. The increased calls for new gun legislation sparked a flurry of economic activity at gun shops like Mitchell’s, as gun buyers feared their access to certain weapons – especially assault rifles – soon would become limited.

“Many people think that assault rifles are used for weapons. The main things I use them for are target shooting and hunting,” Mitchell said. “There are people coming in who are just collectors and want old western revolvers. Everyone has their niche.”

The Carlsbad gun show was expected to draw visitors from around the state as gun stores are reporting shortages of certain firearms. Last week, for example, dozens of gun owners lined up outside an Albuquerque gun store awaiting a new shipment of assault weapons.

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