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Thousands attend Tucson gun show one week after shootings

From Greg Morrison, CNN
More than 7,000 people were expected to attened the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Tucson this weekend.
More than 7,000 people were expected to attened the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Tucson this weekend.
  • Gun show held in Tucson, Arizona, one week after massacre
  • Organizer said killings had nothing to do with gun ownership
  • Attendance expected to be higher than most years

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) -- Thousands of people determined "to exercise their Second Amendment rights," attended a gun show Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, one week after a well-armed gunman opened fire at a local shopping center, the show's president said.

The mood at the show was somber, said Bob Templeton of Crossroads of the West Gun Shows.

But the two-day event is expected to draw up to nearly 7,000 patrons, rather than the customary 5,000, Templeton said. Attendees waited up to 20 minutes to buy tickets Saturday morning, he said.

"We had a moment of silence here at the show," Templeton said, referring to the deaths of six people and the wounding of 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, after last Saturday's shooting.

Criticism over gun show in Tucson

Donations were being taken at the show to assist victims and families.

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, allegedly carried a knapsack to the shopping center, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. He had a semi-automatic handgun, four ammunition magazines and a knife, according to the official.

Loughner is accused of bringing a Glock handgun to the Giffords event and opening fire.

Some critics have questioned whether the gun show was appropriate so soon after the shootings.

Templeton knows there will be a renewed debate on gun control.

"It's going to be a long dialogue on gun control and gun rights, and it will be hard to strike a balance between those two positions," he said. "Responsible firearm ownership means if you are going to have a gun, you should be trained to use it in a responsible way."

Bill Schaeffler of Tucson, among those at the show Saturday, said he knows gun control and high-capacity ammunition magazines will be hot topics. Still, he said, people want to protect themselves.

"There will be more guns owned in this state at the end of this month than at the beginning of the month," he told CNN.

A member of gun-rights lobbying group said he would probably vote for Giffords if she returns to Congress.

"You just have to admire somebody ... who has that kind of perseverance," said Charles Heller, secretary of the Arizona Citizens Defense League.

Heller argued that a well-armed society is a safer society. "Being armed is the natural state of man," he said.

Federal law enforcement officials were on site to monitor buyers and sales activity, Templeton said. "They routinely watch gun shows near the border area to try and curb the flow of guns into Mexico."

Templeton told CNN affiliate KGUN the massacre had nothing to do with lawful gun ownership.

"It was about a madman who had an agenda and who committed unspeakable acts of mayhem and violence," he said.