ONTARIO - There are some Americans who believe there are too many firearms in the United States, and there are those like the thousands who attend events like Crossroads of the West Gun Show.
"We have a Second Amendment which says `the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.' Infringed means you don't mess with it," said customer Patrick Hill of Menifee.
Crossroads of the West is a frequent event at the Ontario Convention Center. When the show is town, thousands gather to peruse or buy any of myriad firearms such as a vintage Remington shotgun, a Ruger Redhawk revolver, Glock semi-automatic pistol or a modern AR-15-style rifle.
Saturday's show, however, was Crossroads' first in Ontario since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December. The gunman who perpetrated that mass killing shot and killed 20 children and six women at the Newtown, Conn., campus after killing his mother and before ending his rampage by suicide.
The show continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To some, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., news of the shooting was a call for stricter gun laws. She has pledged to propose an assault weapons ban to Congress.
President Barack Obama also has signaled his support for new gun controls.
If gun-control advocates fear a nation awash in weapons, others fear a government powerful enough to tell citizens whether they can arm themselves.
The Second Amendment "is actually to overthrow a government," said Hill, who said he is an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It was the right to support the more perfect union," he said. "It was to keep the government in check."
"I say the Second Amendment keeps all the other amendments in place," said Michael, a show attendee from Long Beach who declined to give his last name.
Saturday morning's crowd was so large, Ontario fire officials slowed access to the convention center to a virtual crawl during the show's opening hours to prevent the venue from exceeding capacity.
Customers lined up outside the facility as early as 5 a.m., said Crossroads owner Bob Templeton, who anticipates attendance for the weekend show will at least double its usual tally of 7,000.
A few people stood in line with a rifle or two slung over their shoulders with signs showing offers to sell or trade the weapons. Others exited the venue with hand trucks bearing stacks of ammunition.
Under California law, any customer trying to sell or trade a gun must arrange the sale via a transfer dealer. That's just one way California laws are stricter than those in other states, Templeton said.
The large crowd - and a reported scarcity of ammunition - at Crossroads of the West are in part the product of gun owners' fears that the government will indeed move to ban many popular weapons in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting.
Thick clusters assembled around any vendor dealing in ammunition. Templeton said many consumers are buying as much ammunition as they can, as soon as they can.
Like the throngs at the Ontario gun show, a recent spike in the number of federal background checks performed for perspective gun buyers also suggests many Americans see an imperative to buy firearms that may soon be on a government ban list.
Firearm background checks jumped nearly 39 percent from November to December, when the government processed nearly 2.8 million checks.
Although the Newtown shootings brought gun control to the center of American political discourse, guns were generally off Washington's agenda during Obama's first term.
During the 2012 presidential contest, the only candidate to have signed a gun ban as a government executive was not Obama, but Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Background checks for gun sales jumpFederal background checks for prospective gun buyers jumped about 39 percent from November to December, when authorities processed nearly 2.8 million checks.
Those checks, conducted since November 1998, did not crest the 2 million mark until November, the month President Barack Obama won his second term.
Obama's victories, and perhaps, the prospect of a more liberal White House supporting gun laws that would place some firearms in short supply, correlate with other jumps in background checks.
In November, the number of background checks jumped 24 percent over the prior month's levels and background checks rose 29 percent in November 2008.
By comparison, the number of background checks rose, respectively, by roughly 6 percent and 8 percent from October to November in 2000 and 2004, the months when Republican George W. Bush was elected to his first and second terms as president.
In California, lawmakers first banned assault weapons in 1989 with the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act. It outlawed specific firearms such as the AK-47 and the Colt AR-15.
Nonetheless, weapons similar to those on the original ban list can be bought and sold in California, often due to the ingenuity of manufacturers who have developed such features as the "bullet button" to work around California's requirement that some weapons' magazines can only be removed by the use of a tool.
Roberti-Roos followed a mass shooting at an elementary school in Stockton, where a drifter armed a Chinese variant of the Soviet Union's famous AK-47, murdered five children and wounded 29 others, as well as a teacher.
The Newtown shooting has similarly brought public attention to military-style rifles, especially AR-15 style firearms.
AR-15 rifles and their variants closely resemble the rifles and carbines issued to U.S. military personnel. They fire the same .223 cartridge used for battle, but with a key difference - civilian versions only fire one round per trigger pull.
Thus depending on one's point of view, an AR-15 is an "assault weapon" or a "modern sporting rifle." Gun-control advocates take the former view, saying such firearms are essentially weapons of war that have no place in civilian life.
Gun owners often reply that the AR-15, despite appearances, is basically the same as more traditional-looking rifles that receive less scrutiny.
"It's just a weapon. The ones you buy here at the show are not weapons of war," said Hector Garcia, who owns Cold War Shooters, a gun store in Highland.
The federal government has not enforced a ban on any guns that may be described as an assault weapon since the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004.
That law banned large-capacity magazines and weapons manufactured with at least two military-style features, such as a pistol grip, threaded barrel, flash suppressor or bayonet lug.
Feinstein's bill has yet to be introduced, but her office has announced it will prohibit at least 120 specific weapon models and impose a stricter ban on military-style features than the 1994-2004 law.
The bill would not ban currently legal weapons, but would require owners of grandfathered firearms to submit to background checks, provide fingerprints and photographs to authorities and register their weapons.
The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban won passage while Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. This time around, Feinstein's party only controls the Upper House.
That means it's questionable whether a bill like Feinstein's could make its way through Congress.
"I think it's unlikely that we'll see anything that extreme," Templeton said. "Clearly, there's a mood in Washington to reduce gun violence, but it remains to be seen what the approach will be."
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