Nightly News   |  January 15, 2011

Tucson gun show draws crowds, questions

The latest chapter in the nation’s gun control debate was on the minds of many as they lined up – just miles from the scene of the shooting – to attend the Crossroads of the West. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: news, tucson .

>>> meantime, the tragedy in tucson has heated up a national debate over guns, especially in arizona , where the laws make it easy for most people to own or even carry a gun. nbc's christine welker is also in tucson for us where the gun culture was on display at an event there today.

>> reporter: organizers thought about postponing that event but decided it should go on. and thousands turned out, many of them talking about gun legislation. gun control has re-entered the national conversation since last week's shooting spree. the topic was on the minds of many as they lined up for the crossroads of the west gun show in tucson today.

>> we've had the right to bear arms for a long, long time, you know. yeah, it's just part of the way things are around here.

>> there's absolutely no need for people on the street to be owning assault weapon .

>> reporter: gun show owner bob templeton says people are the problem, not the laws. he thinks loughner, who had been rejected by the army and suspended from college, should have never been permitted to buy a gun.

>> it's an issue of making sure that we don't have guns in the hands of the wrong people.

>> reporter: gun control advocates say the laws need to change nationwide and in arizona .

>> the gun laws in that state are basically nonexistent.

>> reporter: guns are permissible almost anywhere in the state including many public buildings and it is legal for people to conceal those weapons and carry them around, just as loughner did last saturday.

>> arizona is only the third state in the country to allow people to carry loaded, hidden guns without any permitting process at all.

>> reporter: shooting victim representative gabrielle giffords supported legislation that favored gun owners . but now members of congress are renewing calls for reform. new jersey senator frank lautenberg plans to introduce legislation that will bring back the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004 and which outlawed high capacity round clips.

>> the shooter in the case of congresswoman giffords had 33 bullets in the clip. the destruction that he was able to cause hitting 18 or 19 people and killing six should never have happened.

>> reporter: but many disagree.

>> there's no evidence that any -- that any stiffer gun laws would have made any difference.

>> reporter: but in a state like arizona , guns for many are a part of life. and while the nation remain did i vaded over guns, tucson residents say they are united by their grief over everything that happened here just one week ago. lester.

>> kristen welker, thank you.