Gun show attendees react to VP's proposals on gun violence
One man carried a rifle, another an AR-15, a so-called assault weapon, Saturday morning as they walked into Genetti Best Western Inn and Suites in Hazle Township, where a two-day gun show hosted by Jaeger Arms Promotions was under way.
Some came to look, and others to sell.
Still others sought to buy in the days before Vice President Joe Biden unveils proposals to reduce gun violence to President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the mass shooting last month at a school in Newtown, Conn.
Universal background checks on all gun sales and possibly ammunition, new limits on high-capacity magazines and a renewed ban on assault-style weapons are among proposals being bandied about after Biden's task force met with stakeholders this past week.
What impact the vice president's proposals will have on gun violence remains unclear, said John Cheeseman of Hazleton, who sat in a hallway outside the gun show. He feels a push for too many regulations, too fast, likely will end in compromise in Congress, where a battle on an assault weapon ban is expected.
"How many laws can they pass?" Cheeseman asked. "You can't legislate against people who are insane. There is no stopping someone who is crazy."
The young man who pulled the trigger in the Newtown shooting never should have been around firearms, he added.
Cheeseman felt politicians hoped to push a gun-control agenda in the wake of the shooting, and wondered why the so-called assault weapons were targeted when handguns and hammers kill more people in the United States.
Self-proclaimed "gunner" Michael Stanziola carried an AR-15 into the gun show. He explained guns don't kill people - the people behind them do, but admits "there are some crazies out there."
The Hazleton man believes upstanding citizens should be allowed to have firearms, if they want, as guaranteed under the Second Amendment. New laws regulating guns aren't going to stop a madman or "a dope head" from using a gun to hurt people, he said.
Stanziola, however, believes upgrades are needed in the state's background checking system, which is operated by the state police. He feels a lag in data transferred to the current system could allow a person to buy a gun immediately after running awry of the law or undergoing a mental commitment.
Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that requires background checks for all handgun sales, and as a licensed gun dealer, John Tidd of Jaeger Arms Promotions runs background checks on all guns going through the sales he hosts, he said.
However, in Pennsylvania, a private party can legally sell a "long gun" to another person without a background check as long as the seller isn't aware of a conviction against the buyer, Tidd explained. The sale of a pistol without a background check, however, is a felony, he said.
Tidd believes the proposals coming down this month only hurt law-abiding citizens, who want to own firearms.
"This is a mental health issue," he said, noting 92 percent of all mass shootings were at the hands of people with mental defects. "They shouldn't have been out on the streets."
The pending proposals, though, haven't hurt gun sales.
"I think (President) Obama is the best gun salesman we have," Tidd said, explaining that the push for gun control has only brought out numerous "lawful firearms owners" to shows and shops to buy.
A Benton man, who declined to give his name, bought two assault rifles - guns that he admits he had absolutely no interest in owning prior to the gun control frenzy.
Why? Because he wanted to own them before a ban, just in case his interest in the guns changes down the road, he said.