TALLMADGE: As the gun-debate intensifies in Washington, hundreds of people — some carrying single-shot and semi-automatic shotguns and rifles — flowed into the arena at the Summit County Fairgrounds over the weekend for the Ohio Gun, Knife and Military Show.
Many of the attendees were there to buy or sell weapons. Most who were asked to share their opinions about the ongoing exchange between gun-control advocates and opponents declined to comment for privacy reasons.
Those who agreed to talk would do so only if they weren’t identified by name.
Among the possibilities being deliberated in Congress is the expansion of the current federal background-check system to include gun purchases at gun shows from nondealers. Most of those commenting at the local show align themselves with those who oppose gun-control measures. The current gun-law debate was sparked by the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
A 42-year-old and 46-year-old couple from Akron said that as devastating as the shooting was, they do not believe adding restrictions for legal gun owners is the answer. The couple enjoy hunting and attended the show to browse for deals.
‘Responsible gun owners’
“I think the government is trying to have too much control. We are responsible gun owners,” the husband said.
“It’s not the firearms. It’s the person controlling the firearms,” his wife added.
A 74-year-old private gun collector from Cuyahoga County agreed with the couple. He was at the show, selling and buying guns at a table inside the arena.
“We don’t need any new laws,” he said. “This whole discussion about gun control is a political obsession. The people here are law abiding and criminals don’t follow the law anyway.
“The guns, including assault weapons, are not the issue. No piece of metal or plastic is the problem. The issues that need to be addressed are social and cultural, but those are more difficult to tackle.”
Like the private collector, a 65-year-old Cuyahoga Falls man said that people should be leery of any legislation that threatens to take away Second Amendment gun rights.
The man, who hunts and target shoots, came to the show to sell a single-shot Winchester Model 37 .410-gauge shotgun and a .25-caliber pearl handle pistol and to look for a 28-gauge semi-automatic shotgun.
“This is a unique right that we have and we need to preserve it,” he said. “The bottom line is: criminals will get their guns by stealing them or buying them illegally. They are not coming to a gun show.
“Expanding the background checks is not going to prevent a criminal or any mentally ill person from getting a gun and shooting people,” the Cuyahoga Falls man added. “Most of the people here are prudent, law-abiding citizens. We’re not crazy, like some people think. I have a bachelor’s degree, two masters and a Ph.D. I believe in the Second Amendment. Banning guns is not the answer.”
In an effort to influence the gun-control debate, some of the sellers at the local gun show posted fliers, asking people to call their legislators to oppose any new gun regulations.
Countering that effort was a similar call that went out this weekend from religious leaders across the nation. The diverse group of leaders — including Jews, Latino Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Unitarian-Universalists and Mainline Protestants — encouraged the people in their pews to call their legislators today and ask them to support legislation that will require universal background checks for all gun purchases; ban semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; make gun trafficking a federal crime and improve access to mental-health services.
“The religious leaders have, for months, been discussing strong measures to prevent gun violence. This marks a transition to activism by the people,” said Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which is heading the interfaith coalition. “As members of the faith community, we have an obligation to encourage our representatives to pass laws that are sensible to protect our children.”
Example from Akron
An 18-year-old man from Akron who attended the local gun show to look at handheld guns believes that anything that can be done to protect innocent victims should be done. He is just not sure new gun-control measures are the solution because they target legal gun sales. He said more effort should be put toward getting illegal guns off the streets.
The Akron man used the recent shooting death of 4-year-old Jamarcus Allen as an example.
Jamarcus was shot in his father's car as they drove down South Arlington Street in Akron. According to police, it appears that Jamarcus found his father's 9 mm pistol and shot himself in the head.
The boy's father, Terrance Allen, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and illegal weapons possession because a prior felony conviction barred him from carrying a firearm.
“Those are the kinds of guns you want off the streets,” the 18-year-old said. “People are here because they want to get something legally. This is not a place that a criminal would come to buy a gun, especially someone who is already a felon.
“Unfortunately, any law that is put in place won’t stop illegal guns from making their way to the streets. As long as they continue to manufacture guns, they will make their way into the hands of criminals. Guns are stolen and sold all the time. It would probably be easier for me to buy a gun on the street than here at this gun show, and I could get one a lot cheaper.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com.