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SANDY - Thousands flocked to the Crossroads of the West Gun Show over the weekend, continuing a trend of higher attendance in a year that has seen widely publicized mass shootings and a congressional change of the guard.
The two-day show at the South Towne Exposition Center attracted about 10,000 people, much higher attendance than usual, according to Bob Templeton of Kaysville, general manager of the show. The more popular February show, which normally draws between 8,000 and 9,000 people to Sandy, this year drew 12,000, he said.
Templeton points to the new Democratic majority in Congress - anticipated to push tighter gun control measures - and shootings that may have people worrying about their safety.
"The congressional switch put guns in the forefront of people's minds," said Templeton, who founded the gun show 32 years ago and has since taken it to four other Western states. "And recent news coverage has increased the interest in self-defense."
In February, 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic went on a shooting spree inside Salt Lake City's Trolley Square mall, killing five and wounding four. Earlier this month, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers in a campus shooting rampage.
Outside the main hall of the show Sunday, the number of people taking a three-hour course for concealed-weapon certification had also increased.
"We had about 150 people in two days, compared to an average of 75-100," said Shirley Spain of Concealed Carry Specialists, which runs the training with her husband, Curtis Spain. The two say they had to add extra sessions to accommodate the interest.
"They come from all walks of life, from motorcycle guys to newlyweds," Spain said of those who take the class. "There's no stereotype for a concealed-weapons holder. People are scared - they want to be responsible for their own safety."
Among those getting certified Sunday afternoon: an 83-year-old grandmother from Midvale who said she was pressured to get it by her husband and son, who wouldn't let the grandchildren play in her yard until she agreed to carry one.
If there was an undercurrent of fear at the show, though, it wasn't obvious in the exhibit hall.
Swarms of attendees - fathers and sons, men pushing strollers and wearing cowboy hats and boots, women in tank tops and camouflage pants, couples conferring on their purchases - strolled the aisles, checking out everything from a 1909 Mauser rifle to handguns and automatic weapons.
There were also displays of Beanie babies and home-baked bread, Swiss army knives and stuffed pheasants, realistic toy guns and antique bows and arrows. Quilt-making and scrapbook items were also on sale.
Don Black of Murray brought his married daughter, Leslie Henderson of Sandy, to the show.
Black has a couple of guns and once enjoyed hunting and target shooting. He said he has given up hunting, but still enjoys aiming at paper targets or tin cans.
Henderson introduced her husband to target shooting just three weeks ago.
"It's an empowering feeling," she said. "It's fun."
She plans to buy a gun sometime, but not before the couple buys a safe to keep it in.
After all, Henderson said, they have a 3-year-old son. In the back of the hall, Templeton's daughter, Tracy Olcott, was busily sending dealers' requests for background information to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to determine if a buyer had a criminal record.
"It's thorough," said Olcott, "A person could get turned down for something as insignificant as an unpaid parking ticket."
As of Sunday afternoon, she said, "no one had."
* ELIZABETH NEFF contributed to this report.