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Anger over gun proposals is palpable, pervasive at RiverCentre weapons show

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Lonn Haas: "They’re not focusing on the root cause, which is the mental-health issues, which is what will make the most difference. That, and arming the teachers and arming the school administrators."

“The government wants to take our guns.”

That’s what many folks who gathered at the RiverCentre in St. Paul over the weekend for The Minnesota Weapons Collectors Association (“Our Heritage, Our Right”) believe, and the muted anger over President Obama’s proposed new gun laws was palpable, pervasive and ominous throughout the hall.

Many attendees of the two-day showcase wore American flags and hats, patches, T-shirts and other swag advertising the National Rifle Association – a timely show of solidarity with the under-siege NRAwhose gun-show booth offered $10 discounts off its usual $35 membership fee. New blood and a new urgency were everywhere; people of all ages strolled the RiverCentre floor, caressing, carrying, selling, and purchasing guns, clothes, military memorabilia, taxidermy pelts, pistols, rifles, knives, swords and other items.

Crammed together side-by-side on the cavernous floor and brimming with guns and ammunition, the vendors’ tables looked like bunkers manned by small militias. One father-son team clad in matching army fatigueware (and who appear in this MWCA promotional video) sang the praises of their specialty house Truly Tacticaland peddled enough gear to outfit an army, along with stickers that read, “Live Free Or Die,” “Guns Save Lives,” “Disarmament = Tyranny,” and, underneath a silhouette of an assault rifle, “Come And Take It.”

Disdain for Feinstein, Cuomo

Which, at this mad momentis the fear and fight of most gun owners. Last Thursday, in the wake of the Newtown mass murders, Sen. Diane Feinstein introduced a bill that would prohibit 157 specific weapons and ammunition magazines that have more than 10 rounds.  For gun owners, the proposal amounted to a declaration of war.

“That one right there would give that elite Feinstein a stroke,” cackled one gun vendor who wouldn’t give his name, pointing at a shiny black assault weapon with rounded barrels and nicknamed “Mickey Mouse.” The man nearly spit when he said “Feinstein,” and he wasn’t alone in his disdain for lawmakers in her camp.  

“There are a number of anti-gun folks like Feinstein and (New York Gov. Andrew) Cuomo whose focus is on doing away with guns no matter what, and they’re more than willing to use a terrible incident like this to further their cause,” said Lonn Haas, a volunteer with Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, which lobbies for area gun owners’ rights.

“The changes that they’re proposing, this assault weapons ban, is pointless. It’s been proven by a Department of Justice study that the last assault weapons ban essentially had no impact in its 10 years of existence. And yet they want to essentially redo that.

“They’re not focusing on the root cause, which is the mental-health issues, which is what will make the most difference. That, and arming the teachers and arming the school administrators. Again, there have been studies that show when someone puts up armed resistance in a situation like that, the situation ends. We need armed people on the sites and in the schools where these things can happen.”

Over at the House Of Lumens booth, a mother-daughter team (no names, please) sold Ranger Up T-shirts celebrating the Second Amendment and gun owners’ rights (“Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me Better Start Running”; “The Second Amendment: Defending The Rest Since 1791”). Across the way and next to the NRA booth, an older gent behind the Twin Cities Muzzle Loaders Inc. booth schooled a young boy in a folksy lesson on weapons of the Civil War. He offered the boy a pellet, then pointed at a derringer sitting amidst a display of antique pistols.

“President Abraham Lincoln was shot with one of these,” said the old man to the kid, who remained unmoved. “That’s a replica of the pistol he was killed with. Now if you’re really interested, here’s our websiteand you can come and learn more.”

Under a sign that read “Oak Grove Arms Law Enforcement Tactical Sales Class 2 MFG Class 3 Dealer Fires Ammunition Accessories” and above a 1994 Rod Grams for Senate campaign bumper sticker, a sticker festooned to an ammo display case said it all for many: “Right Wing Extremist and Proud.”

Libertarian Party vendor Hannah Nicollet
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshLibertarian Party vendor Hannah Nicollet: “There’s something about power, something about the legalized body of force that seems to bring out the worst in people. That’s why I’m a Libertarian.”

A check against tyranny

Next door sat the Libertarian Party table, which hawked periodicals and bumper stickers such as “Men Can’t Be Trusted With Guns, That’s Why Everyone Should Have One” and “Oh Boo Hoo I’m So Scared Government Please Save Me.”

“When Obama floated the rumor that he was going to do the executive order to confiscate guns, Twitter went bananas,” said Hannah Nicollet, sitting at the Libertarian Party table. “People were downright violent; ‘Out of my cold dead hands’ and ‘Let him eat lead.’ I’m not a violent person. I don’t agree with that kind of violent [talk], but you can’t talk about confiscating people’s guns.

“The Second Amendment was created to be a check against government tyranny. Do I believe that the government [could overthrow the populace]? Right now, no, because we have somewhere between two and three hundred million weapons in private hands in the United States, all over, and that is a check on government tyranny.

“However, in the last century, governments have engaged in democidewhere governments just kill their own citizens. Governments have murdered 171 million of their own citizens. I’m not talking about war; I’m just talking about straight-up democide. They’ve mass-murdered 200 thousand times the number of people that individual citizens have.

“Individual people don’t create holocausts. There’s something about power, something about the legalized body of force that seems to bring out the worst in people. That’s why I’m a Libertarian.”

‘HK 91 For Sale’

For much of the day, a young woman unenthusiastically walked the grounds with a rifle slung over her shoulder and a sign taped to her back: “G 3 Century HK 91 For Sale.” At her side was her father, who extolled the virtues of the weapon, which he said he used for hunting rabbit, coyote, and fox outside Bemidji. He’s seen it on the Internet for $1,100, but he’d take $650.

“They’re totally accurate,” said the man, stroking the shaft of the gun. “They’re the greatest shooting gun. It’s a super soft shooter, that’s their design. They’ll make an AR-15 look like junk, because this is all H and K (Heckler and Koch) stuff from Germany. 

I’ve got two mags with it. You can get all kinds of different .308 ammo for it, and you’ve got to remember .308 stuff is cheaper than .223.”

Saturday afternoon as the St. Paul Winter Carnival parade wound its way through downtown St. Paul and gun-control activists marched on Washington, D.C.blank-faced shoppers inside the RiverCentre looked for deals and steals, and down the scopes of rifles. They pointed at the ground and ceiling and aimed at unseen targets. The murmur of voices hummed along calmly and quietly, in stark contrast to the sounds waiting to be exploded by the dormant assembled arsenal. Upstairs in Roy Wilkins Auditorium, a cat show was happening.  

“People who are focused on vilifying firearms and firearms owners are the ones that are getting all the press,” said Haas. “They’re pushing forward with all these silly laws when they know it’s not going to do any good. There’s data out there showing that it’s not going to do any good, but they get away with outright lying. They get a lot of media coverage, but when gun owners legitimately help people or stop a crime, that gets pushed off to page 20 or something.”

Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/28/2013 - 11:43 am.

    Confiscation ?!?

    …..“When Obama floated the rumor that he was going to do the executive order to confiscate guns, Twitter went bananas,” said Hannah Nicollet, sitting at the Libertarian Party table. “People were downright violent; ‘Out of my cold dead hands’ and ‘Let him eat lead.’ I’m not a violent person. I don’t agree with that kind of violent [talk], but you can’t talk about confiscating people’s guns…..

    And exactly why would “Obama” float such a rumor?

    I would guess that it was his opponents that floated the rumor, not Obama.

    This is why so much of the current gun fervor is pretty disturbing. People all worked up into a frenzy and threatening violence over an unsubstantiated rumor started by their compatriots,

    This is exactly how bad things happen.

    • Submitted by Richard Kendall on 01/28/2013 - 01:47 pm.

      Biden floated the rumor

      “I would guess that it was his opponents that floated the rumor, not Obama.”

      Actually, … “Vice President Biden had informed lawmakers during a two-hour briefing on Monday that there are “19 independent steps that the president can take by executive order.” Ms. Speier said the executive action is part of the “most comprehensive gun safety effort in a generation.” — New York Times

      With the internet, it isn’t that hard to debunk things that aren’t true, or prove those that are.

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 01/28/2013 - 12:30 pm.

    Feinstiens bill doesn’t touch reality. I like other target,trap and skeet skeeters have very expensive guns. My most expensive target rifle, well into the middle 5 figure value, has a thumb-hole stock and would be banned by Feinstiens bill. Myself and other target shooters are supposed to turn over a 10 or 15000 dollar gun because some politician doesn’t have her head on straight. I started target shooting when I was 8 years old, if Feinstien thinks she will get any of my guns she is barking up the wrong tree.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/28/2013 - 01:44 pm.

      On what do you base your idea that you will have to turn in your gun(s)?

      Can you point to any legislation (passed or proposed) or executive act (proposed or implemented) that actually would do so? If so, provide a reference.

      Who is barking up the wrong tree?

      What you should be asking is who is benefiting by these rumors? Could it be arms dealers, fringe political figures and parties, gun and ammo manufacturers? Now why would they do so?

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 01/29/2013 - 07:50 am.

        Gun & Ammo

        It’s hard to buy ammo–any ammo at all–at the moment. People are so afraid of their guns being confiscated that they’ve cleaned out the shelves.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/28/2013 - 01:52 pm.

      Feinstein Bill

      The legislation bans the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of:

      All semiautomatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel.

      All semiautomatic pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: threaded barrel; second pistol grip; barrel shroud; capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip; or semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.

      All semiautomatic rifles and handguns that have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

      All semiautomatic shotguns that have a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; pistol grip; fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 5 rounds; ability to accept a detachable magazine; forward grip; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; or shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

      All ammunition feeding devices (magazines, strips, and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

      Doesn’t talk about guns with thumb-hole in the stocks, and specifically excludes hunting and sporting gums, and NEVER talks about confiscation.

      But who really want’s to know what’s in the proposed legislation when rumor will do.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 01/29/2013 - 08:00 am.

        Grenade Launcher

        Well, that would ban my M1 Garand as it has the capacity to take a grenade launcher.

        Personally, I think these guns nuts are simply that: nut jobs who are one beer away from going off the deep end. While I don’t agree with how they say it, I do agree that it would be better to concentrate on mental health issues. Since mental health facilities were closed in the ’60s and ’70s people with some serious problems have been out on the street, largely untreated. Eventually they commit a crime and they end up in a prison, where treatment is spotty at best. It would be far better to see them get the treatment they need at an early age, rather wait till something finally snaps and they go off the deep end.

        Ideally, we’re talking about mental health being covered and treated as well as someone with a physical ailment. The best way to achieve that though would be single payer universal health care, which is a pipe dream given the current political climate.

        Oh well! We can dream, can’t we?

  3. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 01/28/2013 - 12:54 pm.


    Wow, these people are getting so upset, you’d think the Gummint was trying to deny them the right to marry the people they love.

    • Submitted by Richard Kendall on 01/28/2013 - 04:28 pm.

      Mirror mirror

      @Steve Hoffman, you’re reflecting your own bigotry. Libertarians oppose government involvement in marriage. I voted against the marriage amendment and I was a 2-time MN GOP delegate. Most of the libertarians and libertarian republicans in my circle oppose governement telling people whom they can marry. You don’t think the amendment failed because *only* liberals voted against it, do you?

  4. Submitted by Bob Lawrence on 01/28/2013 - 03:17 pm.

    Sad but true

    No matter how this thing is spun, the current administration has been a boon for gun sales. Hand guns, so called assault guns, rifles, shotguns what ever. Washington has created this frenzy with all the talk. The NRA couldn’t be happier, which I am a member of. All this talk of the assault rifle used in Sandy Hook appears to be a lie. The guy used handguns, (from I can tell) yet all the buzz is about the assualt style guns. Obama’s crew created this frenzy. Nobody to blame but Obama, his media and his staff.

  5. Submitted by Pat Thompson on 01/28/2013 - 04:47 pm.

    I never understand when a person claims the underlying cause is mental health problems, when people in every other country have mental health problems, too. But they don’t have our suicide by gun or mass murder rates.

    The thing to do is look for what’s different between our situation and theirs, and the difference is not the presence of mental illness but the accessibility of guns.

    That said, no one in any decision-making position has talked about confiscating guns.

    • Submitted by Sean Fahey on 01/29/2013 - 09:56 am.

      Treatment is also a factor.

      I’m betting that the US behind the curve on helping those with mental heath issues. The EU and WHO seems much more organized and involved in helping Europeans by treating the problem as a public health crisis, but I didn’t dig very deep into the data yet. I do know funding for treatment has been gutted at every level in the US.

      The number of mass murder incidents seem pretty high in the US, have been for decades, with all kinds of different weapons. Why? The root causes of our problems should be treated, banning classes of weapons is just a band-aid.

      When you look at the leading causes of death in this country, you will realize that this entire debate here is political theater. Our effort would be better used almost anywhere else. This whole debate is just two sides of a culture war trying to give each other bloody noses.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/29/2013 - 09:54 am.

    The second Amendment is not a check to government

    Actually, the Second Amendment was created to preserve militias that could suppress insurrections against the government, not mount insurrections against the government. I’m not trying to be rude but all I see here is ignorance, hysteria, and borderline paranoia. Even without the Second Amendment no one could go house to house and confiscate all the guns in the this country. When these people talk about the “government” they simply have no coherent concept what they’re even talking about. They don’t have a basic understanding what a government even is, much less what their own government is, and how it works. It’s mind boggling that a person can live in the United States of American and think they live in a dictatorship. Don’t these people realize that if the “government” they imagine actually existed… they wouldn’t be sitting at gun show in the first place? The only difference between this and a UFO convention is the assault weapons.

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 02/04/2013 - 03:42 pm.

      All I see …

      Paul: “all I see here is ignorance, hysteria, and borderline paranoia.’

      Well, yes. What were you expecting?

  7. Submitted by Rob Johnson on 01/29/2013 - 10:40 am.

    simply lock up loaded legal guns and background check buyers

    safety oriented gun owners will purchase a steel lockable gun safe to secure all guns into away from children please view the video below to see what is happening in our society when loaded guns are unsecured and available to children and people with mental issues

    Here is a great short video that reminds us to secure all guns in a metal lockable gun safe away from children

    if link wont play copy and paste it into your web browser

  8. Submitted by Hannah Nicollet on 01/30/2013 - 11:12 pm.

    Is Government More Trustworthy With Weapons than Average Joe?

    My video on the subject of the 2nd amendment & tyranny:

    Hannah Nicollet
    Libertarian Party of MN Executive Board

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 01/31/2013 - 09:30 am.


      I watched your video. Just a small bit of advise: you would get your message across better if you skipped the mock laughter. Stick to facts and present your case without theatrics, otherwise you look just as disingenuous as the people you’re trying to counter.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears you’re trying to make the point that guns are necessary to counter a potentially tyrannical government. If the government gets out of control, then people need to get rolling and start popping off government agents with their deer hunting rifle.

      Do you think that’s a realistic scenario? I’m not talking is it realistic that the government may become tyrannical. Who knows what form of government we’ll have a couple of hundred years from now. Rather I’m asking if it’s realistic that your average gun enthusiast stands a ghost of a chance in taking on your average Boy Scout troop, let alone a highly trained SWAT team. Let alone the armed forces with advanced weaponry, body armor, tanks, helicopters, jets, ships, stealth technology, and boatloads of training.

      Your party has been to a lot of gun shows, as have I. Next time you’re at one, look at the people there. Most of them get winded just reaching for the remote. They’re 95+ pounds overweight, have type II diabetes, and the most exercise they get is bending down to attach a right wing missive to their bumper. Watching them take on the armed forces would be like watching a three month old baby try to bite Mike Tyson’s ear off. It’s damn cute, but you know it ain’t gonna happen.

      • Submitted by Hannah Nicollet on 01/31/2013 - 09:50 am.

        “If the government gets out of control, then people need to get rolling and start popping off government agents with their deer hunting rifle.”

        Really? Have you read “Night” or any book that chronicles a government gone tyrannical? People didn’t need to start “popping off government agents” – they needed to stop forking over their freedom without a word. They needed to stop trusting that everyone in authority had their best interest at heart and following every order without question.

        There’s a lot I would address from your condescending, stereotyping comment, but I’ll leave it at that.

  9. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 01/31/2013 - 10:58 am.

    Carry On

    Oh, cut the mock outrage. Sure, I used some stereotypes to get my point across, but not more so than the bumper stickers on the table in front of you. You have to admit that a lot of gun enthusiasts, just like the general population, could stand to miss a meal. With 2/3 of Americans overweight and half of those obese, their odds aren’t good against an armed force that trains on a daily basis.

    Hannah, this is your opportunity to make a pitch. You’ve obviously put yourself out there as the Libertarian spokesperson. You’re posting videos for people to watch and comment on, manning a table at public events, giving interviews, allowing your picture to be taken for articles, and commenting on public boards. As that spokesperson it’s your obligation to engage people and convince them that you have a message worth listening to. If you just get surly when someone dings you a little bit you’re never going to make progress beyond your core membership. You need to be articulate and state your point of view in a reasoned manner.

    Try this: pretend I’m a potential member (actually, I am). Give me your elevator speech. We’re stuck in an elevator together for two minutes as we head to the top of the IDS and you want to convince me to join up.


    • Submitted by Hannah Nicollet on 01/31/2013 - 07:29 pm.

      Interesting. I clearly underestimated you. Touche.

      I didn’t realize that came across as mock outrage, but I guess you’re right. Agreed – a lot of Americans could stand to miss a meal. However, I’m not sure the armed forces look so much different than the general population (obesity is a major problem in the military also).

      That said, if we still have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan and according the the CIA there are only 50-100 total Al Qaeda left there, I’d put my money on an armed populace of a 100 million to be able to at least wage a decent guerilla war. Granted, not all of those armed in America would participate in a fight against a tyrannical government, but I believe we also have to take into consideration the number of troops who take their military oath seriously (to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic). There would no doubt be plenty of defectors from their ranks.

      Personally I hate violence. My hope is for detente, that even if we have a government which desires to become tyrannical, they are prevented from doing so by the ugly possibility of resistance.

      However, if we were on an elevator & I were trying to convince you to become a member of the LP, I probably would never mention the 2nd amendment.

      For starters, I’d ask you how you feel about the fact that we have a military presence in over 130 countries around the world. I would ask you how you feel about the fact that our government is using drones to kill innocent people. I’d ask if you’re tired of perpetual war.

      Besides war, I would also bring up bank bailouts & corporatism in general. We have a country where supposedly our president is “for” the poor, & yet he gave more money in one day to Goldman Sachs than the entire yearly food stamps budget in the US. I’d ask if you’re tired of giving taxpayer money to fat cats on Wall Street & if you believe that they are in fact “too big to fail” or if they actually receive money & preferential treatment based on donating to the “right” politicians.

      Finally, I’d ask how you feel about the hordes of civil liberties violations coming down the pike – from the NDAA (assassinations of American citizens) to the Patriot Act, CISPA, warrantless wiretapping, the TSA, etc. I’d also ask you if you feel the Drug War has been a success.

      In general, I find most people want peace & do not want to live in a police state. Some surprise me by loving war & loving the idea of a police state – with these people I simply shrug & admit defeat. I hope you’re one of the former.

      Peace out 🙂

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/04/2013 - 04:53 pm.

        Gun Control

        Sorry I’m so tardy in replying. I’ve been fighting that horrible cold that’s been going around.

        One item I haven’t seen brought up in the whole gun control debate is that we already have banned guns. The issue isn’t whether or not certain kinds of guns are banned–some already are–but rather where exactly that ban lies.

        Example: At one end of the spectrum we have cap guns that kids use to run around shooting each other. It’s one step up from getting a stick and yelling “BANG! I got you!” Most everyone can agree it’s silly to ban those. Sure, there will be a few diehard parents who don’t want their kid pointing anything at anyone, but for the most part it’s a pretty innocuous item.

        At the other end of the spectrum we have thermonuclear warheads, which most everyone agrees shouldn’t be in the hands of the average Joe. In fact a lot of people make a compelling argument that they shouldn’t be in the hands of governments either.

        In between we have a wide swath of arms, some of which are completely unrestricted (flame throwers), semi regulated (shotguns), and banned (anti aircraft guns and artillery are just two examples). So the question then becomes not should we ban guns, but rather where that dividing line lies.

        You make some pretty good arguments for the Libertarian party. Keep a positive, upbeat, and logical message and you’ll do pretty well with that pitch. The screaming talking head approach does well with certain demographics, but I get the impression that this isn’t the type of person you’re trying to attract to your organization.

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