Cerritos residents Joel and Livia Ong have fond memories of what, perhaps, was an unconventional first date.
The couple, recent gun enthusiasts, went to a shooting range. Now, the Ongs are regulars at gun shows in Southern California, checking out new gear and hoping to pick up tips.
They were among the thousands to make their way to the OC Fair & Events Center for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show, on Sunday, October 8.
“We’re big fans of the show,” Joel Ong, a six-year veteran of the Navy, said. “After we started shooting three years ago, we wanted to see what it was all about.”
The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, where 64-year old Stephen Paddock fired on a crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, killing 58 and wounding 527 more, did little to detract gun enthusiasts from coming to the show.
Tracy Olcott, vice president of Crossroads of the West, said 10,000 attendees were expected to peruse some 1,200 vendors over the course of the two-day event in Costa Mesa. She said approximately 5,000 showed up on Saturday.
Despite some complaints over the timing of the gun show in the wake of the mass shooting, the show, which was scheduled well before the Las Vegas massacre, went on as planned.
“Once the ball gets rolling on an event of this magnitude, it’s really hard to stop it,” Olcott said.
It wasn’t a problem for those in attendance, many of whom wore patriotic and camouflage clothing. The Ongs walked around several buildings with booths selling rifles, handguns, stun guns, knives, body armor, accessories, apparel, military equipment and Americana.
The show also had booths promoting gun safety and others passing out flyers informing those in attendance of recent gun laws.
“We put an emphasis on gun safety,” Ong said. “Proper training is important, especially when you have weapons in the home, so we’re learning about safety.”
This year, the Ongs did not bring their young children to the event, but they said they plan on doing so when the kids are older as an educational experience.
They also felt that the mass shooting could bring about changes in gun control. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday proposed legislation that would ban the sale and possession of bump-stock equipment, which Paddock used to make his semiautomatic weapons fire like automatic weapons.
Republican Party leaders and the National Rifle Association said they will consider limiting bump stocks.
Bump stocks and automatic weapons were not being sold at the event and are illegal in California.
“It’s not an issue here,” Olcott said. “We’re glad people who are normal participants of the gun show are here. They’re just law-abiding citizens who are gathering.”
Others, like Dustin Widner, 38, attended the event to purchase ammunition. He was also considering the purchase of a rifle.
The Mission Viejo resident said the Oct. 1 event reinforced his consideration of completing a Concealed Carry permit.
A real estate broker, Widner received a .38 Special, from his grandfather, who was a Detroit Police specialist, to protect his home, which had no backyard fencing at the time of purchase.
He believes the Oct. 1 mass shooting will lead to hightened security measures and others said the event could lead to changes in gun regulations.
“California is already one of the strictest states when it comes to regulations,” Widner said. “You have 80 million registered gun owners in the country who are doing things the right way.”
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