What are you meant to hunt with THAT? Giant killing machine is star attraction at shooting sports convention
It is less than a fortnight since six people were killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords terribly injured in a shooting spree in Arizona.
But the Tucson massacre has done nothing to deter the 16,000 expected to attend the 33rd National Shooting Sports Foundation's Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade convention in Las Vegas.
The annual event (which goes by the all-too-accurate acronym SHOT) is taking place at the 630,000 sq ft Venetian Hotel and Casino.
Among the wares on offer is this extraordinarily large Heckler & Koch many visitors were eyeing with some excitement.
Scroll down to see Territorial Army troops trying out a grenade machine gun
Taking aim: A customer tries out a grenade machine gun at the National Shooting Sports Foundation's 33rd annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas (see information box below)
Empowering: The GMG fires 350 40mm grenades a minutes and has been used by armies around the world - but what can you hunt with it?
BIG SHOT: THE FACTS
Developed by arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, the GMG is an automatic grenade launcher originally made for the German army in the mid-1990s.
The GMG - Granat Maschinengewehr or grenade machine gun - fires 40mm grenades at a rate of around 350 rounds per minute.
It is used for long-range bombardments in war zones and is not available for civilian use.
The ambidextrous belt-fed weapon can be loaded from either side and weighs a hefty 64lbs. Its tripod weighs an additional 24lbs.
The GMG is 109cm long, with a barrel measuring 415mm in diametre. An ammunition box holding grenades straps onto the gun's side.
Less than 400 have been manufactured for armies around the world.
Canada has ordered 304 GMGs, while Britain purchased 44 in 2006 for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The German-made Granat Maschinengewehr, or grenade machine gun (GMG), fires out 350 40mm grenades a minute.
Quite what quarry would require such a ludicrous sized weapon remains something of a mystery.
The gun was one of the stars of the show, which opened yesterday and goes on until January 21.
Barbara Heetderks of Dallas elbowed her way through a throng of arms dealers, shooting range owners, military buyers and law enforcement officers in search of the perfect ammunition for 'Maya', 'Joe' and the other 40 rifles and pistols that make up her personal gun collection.
'It's packed in here,' observed Heetderks of the crowd at the SHOT mega-show.
She was clad in a shirt emblazoned with the flag of Texas and a broach that read, 'I'm the NRA (National Rifle Association ) and I vote.'
Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat, introduced legislation in Washington yesterday that seeks to ban large capacity ammunition magazines like those recovered at the Arizona crime scene.
Her husband was killed and her son seriously wounded in a 1993 shooting on the Long Island railroad.
'Even gun owners, NRA gun owners, have said to me there is no reason why we need to have these large capacity clips, especially for personal security,' she said.
'I just hope people understand we are not after their guns but there are things we can do to protect lives.'
Tensions between public safety and constitutional rights have flared up after previous mass shootings and have resulted in little change.
But anti-gun advocates are hopeful Congress will be pushed into action now that one of their own was attacked.
'This (large capacity) magazine is designed for one thing - to take out as many people as possible,' said Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington D.C..
Scroll down to see the promotional video for the SHOT convention
Aiming high: A man, one of 16,000 people at the convention, looks through the sights of a rifle
At the Las Vegas convention, buyers dressed in military uniforms mingled with gun dealers, with shinning displays of M-14s, long range rifles, Glocks, Smith & Wessons and knives with names like the 'Lil Fixer' cramming every nook.
Exhibition booths spilled into the adjacent Sands Expo Convention Center.
Organisers said those affected by the shooting were in their prayers, but urged lawmakers not to link the killings to gun laws.
'The recent tragedy in Tucson was not
about firearms, ammunition or magazine capacity,' said Ted Novin,
spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
'It was about the action of a madman.'
Traditionalists also groaned at the prospect of any new battle over gun rights.
Hot shot: Customers wandered though the 63,000 square feet convention which ends on January 21
'I think it's absolutely ignorant,' said Chris Marshall, a sales director at the Big Darby Creek Shooting Range in Ohio, as he toured the Las Vegas show.
'This was a very ill young man and they are trying to pin this on all gun users.'
Rules in the convention hall were strict, however, with no one under the age of 16 allowed and personal firearms banned.
Harrison, a spokesman for Crimson Trace, an Oregon-based manufacturer,
said participants flock to the show each year mostly to put a face to
the distributors they have worked with.
firm showed off more than 62 models, including a Smith & Wesson
with a light and laser that wasn't slated to hit the market until late
Shoot on sight: Thousands of guns were on show in the largest weapons convention in the world
'This has been growing year after year,' Harrison said of the show. 'Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.'
Crimson Trace sells firearms to law enforcement agencies and private citizens.
'Any legislation that restricts the Second Amendment would not be good for us,' Harrison said.
For some, the right to bear arms represents a more personal battle.
Heetderks said she began carrying a gun every day after she was raped some years ago.
'I'm not physically strong enough to fight off a man,' she said of her assailant. 'If I had a gun, I would have killed him.'
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