OGDEN — Walking in the door at this weekend’s gun show at the Weber County Fairgrounds one of the first things to greet the eye is a 4-foot-by-8-foot sign with the words “Killing Lincoln.”
It’s one of the more historically themed booths at the show, with Jim Craner combining his hobbies of history and gun-collecting, and the sign borrowing from the Bill O’Reilly book of the same name, which is on display. The exhibits include a replica of the .44-caliber Derringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.
The large size of the bullet actually allowed Lincoln to live through the night, leaving a wound large enough for a doctor to probe inside and relieve some of the pressure of swelling tissue, noted Craner, 81, of Ogden.
His great-grandmother was from Springfield, Ill., Lincoln’s home for 17 years before he was elected president, and preserved the New York Herald’s April 15, 1865, front page on the shooting. It’s now on display at the Utah Gun Collectors Association gun show running through today at the fairgrounds’ Exhibit Hall. Admission is $5, cash only.
Lincoln, Craner said, was a friend of Ogden’s famous gun-making Browning family through a cousin of John Browning who practiced law with Lincoln in Illinois.
Also on hand was 15-year-old Brady Tidwell, of the Clearfield High School ROTC, manning a booth to solicit donations for the corps sharpshooting team’s next competition, the Marksmanship Junior Olympics this summer in Alabama.
The nine-member band of shooters last month won the Air Force National Championship competition held in Davis County. “It would be a much safer world if everyone knew how to use firearms,” he said.
Discussing a recent survey that showed while gun sales continue to rise, the number of American homes with guns has actually declined, from 54 percent in 1977 to 32 percent in 2010, Tidwell found it unfortunate.
“Take the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary,” he said, referring to the December massacre of 20 children and six adults. “If a principal or a teacher there had a gun, that would have ended a lot better. Everybody here is going to tell you that.”
The University of Chicago study released last month also listed 3.7 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2007, soaring to 6.1 million by 2011.
Lena Peterson and Jim Blankenship were surprised at the survey results. The couple runs a self-defense products business out of their Ogden home, concentrating on gun shows throughout the state. She was wearing her pistol holsters on the front of her thighs, “combat ready,” as she put it.
They sell everything from guns to knife pens — not penknives, but pens with a 3-inch blade, that still write. And knife combs. A similar blade is hidden in the comb’s spine “if you want something more covert,” she said.
The survey surprises them because their business is brisk, “which shows you that people are scared,” mainly of what President Barack Obama may do to gun laws and of street crime, said she and husband Jim.
“Gun collectors love their toys,” said Tidwell of the survey results. “So they buy a lot of them. Most of the people here (at the gun show) personally own from 10 to 200. They’re serious about it. And they’re worried Obama is going to take them away.”
Craner opined that the survey on gun ownership simply shows a shifting demographic. More people live in cities now, he said, where gun ownership isn’t as prevalent as it is in rural areas.
“For farmers, a gun is a tool, plus if you get out and about in rural areas you’re all alone,” he said. “People are scared because police can’t be everywhere.”