published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Gun control push's impact on shows 'too early to tell'

A Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition are displayed at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle.
A Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition are displayed at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Banning assault rifles, limiting clip capacity or mandating universal background checks — all proposals from President Obama — will likely change how gun shops and gun show operators to business, some say.

Right now, those benefiting from gun sales don't know what will happen, or how their business will be affected.

"It's just too early to tell," said Rex Kehrli, owner of R.K. Gun Shows.

Kehrli's company operates throughout the country, including in Chattanooga. Shows like his have been the subject of much discussion, as they can provide a loophole for people who want to buy guns without a criminal background check. No such check is required to purchase any guns at shows in 39 states, including Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

The most controversial of Obama's proposals -- magazine limits, assault weapons ban, background check requirements -- require legislative action.

Gun control advocates believe background checks at all shows will prevent many convicted criminals from getting their hands on powerful weapons.

Kehrli said he doesn't know how those laws would affect business at his shows.

His company holds shows in Colorado, where background checks are required, and he said sales there are fine. Licensed dealers call up and search an FBI database while buyers and sellers negotiate the additional costs. The whole process takes about five extra minutes.

John Martin, owner of The Shooters Depot, said his business would sorely miss sales from automatic weapons. But he was more concerned with Obama's decision to sign so many executive orders instead of going through Congress.

"If he decides next week he doesn't want us to eat watermelons, he can sign an executive order," Martin said. "And guess what? No more watermelons."

That, too, is based on an "if."

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