Las Vegas Sun

February 24, 2018

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Attendance down for gun show in shadow of Strip mass shooting site

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Mick Akers

A sign greets guests at the entrance to the Las Vegas Gun Show, set for Jan. 27-28 at the Sports Center of Las Vegas at 121 E. Sunset Road.

The Las Vegas Gun Show will see a decline in vendors this year, and that’s a direct result of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip, says the event’s owner.

The show will be held this weekend at the Sports Center of Las Vegas on Sunset Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, about a mile from where Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay at a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The site of the shooting — where 58 were killed and more than 800 suffered injuries — is visible from the front entrance of the gun show.

Claude Hall, the gun show owner, says he expects 2,000 attendees. In the past, it has been 2,500 to 3,000. Vendor signups are down 25 percent, he said.

Shortly after the shooting, representatives of the Sports Center reached out to Hall to see if plans for the show had changed.

“There was no way we were going to cancel,” he said.

But Hall, knowing there would be hesitation from some to be part of this year’s show, reduced prices for vendors.

“We lowered table prices for people that have guns,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we kept the show as full as we could.”

He’s heard rumors of protests planned for outside of the show, but as setup was taking place Friday afternoon, all was silent. As a precaution and to promote attendee safety, security will be heightened.

Concealed weapons are allowed at the show but only if the owner is properly licensed and the gun is not loaded.

“We’ve got a metal detector wand that we’re going to use, especially to check anyone who looks suspicious,” he said. “We like to bring it out after events that happen, like the shooting over there (near Mandalay Bay), to show visible security.”

Gun control is always a topic of much debate, especially locally after the shooting. Even though Paddock amassed an arsenal of 55 guns prior to the attack, Hall argued that such shootings are not as much about the firearms as they are about the people who have them.

“You can’t stop an idiot,” Hall said. “That guy (Paddock), there was something wrong with him, he was a lunatic.”

Hall said nobody he has talked to participating in the gun show knew Paddock, despite the gunman searching terms like “Las Vegas Gun Shows” in advance of carrying out the attack.

“I’ve asked around to everybody at the show, and no one remembers this guy,” he said. “I’ve been putting on shows here for 25 years, and I’ve never seen him. We see the same people over and over and over and have never seen him.”

Hall said anyone buying a gun at the show goes through a background check, the same as if they were buying from a gun store.

In addition to hunting rifles, knives and other weapons, semiautomatic guns are sold at the event.

One thing Hall didn’t want sold at the show was bump stocks, the device that allows a semiautomatic gun to mimic the rapid fire of an automatic weapon and that was used by the Las Vegas gunman.

“We don’t want them in shows right now,” he said. “Anytime something happens like that … it doesn’t work, it just won’t go. It would be bad taste.”