The 35th annual SHOT show was closed to the public and was covered by a limited number of reporters and photographers. Foundation spokesman Bill Brassard Jr. told The Associated Press the group was swamped by media requests and stopped accepting applications following the Newtown shooting.
"By shutting out the news media, NSSF hopes that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," said Josh Sugarmann, head of the Violence Policy Center gun-control advocacy group in Washington, D.C., and a native of Newtown, Conn. He accused the foundation of "putting a happy face on the weapons of war it helps market ... while ignoring the inevitable tragedies that result."
The show offered 1,600 vendors with displays ranging from camping needs to pocket knives, camouflage clothing and tactical gear, along with handguns, hunting rifles and assault rifles. The sounds of bolt-action firing mechanisms could be heard throughout the vast convention hall.
Will Michael, whose family owns a sporting goods store in Homer, La., examined AR-15 military-style assault rifles and later paused during his trek through a maze of more than 12 miles of booth-lined aisles to talk by telephone with a reporter.
"There's a lot more interest in any and everything they're talking about banning," Michael said. "What I really enjoy about this show is you can hold the product, put your hands on it and pass that experience to the customer."
Michael said buyers have been joining waiting lists since a spike in AR-15 sales after a mass shooting last July 20 at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater killed 12 people and injured 70.
He said that until hoarders made ammunition costs soar, the inexpensive multi-shot AR model weapons were economical and efficient for hunters stalking nuisance wild pigs in his region.
A herd of pigs scatters after a single shot with a bolt-action rifle, Michael noted.
And with demand high, .223-caliber AR-15 bullets that used to cost 10 to 15 cents each in bulk now cost 50 to 60 cents, he said.
Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson contributed to this report.
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