LAS VEGAS — A trade show expected to draw tens of thousands of gun enthusiasts and manufacturers opened Tuesday on the Las Vegas Strip with the head of an industry group preparing to tell convention-goers they weren't to blame for the recent mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
"We are not the evildoers," National Shooting Sports Foundation chief Steve Sanetti said in remarks scheduled to be delivered Tuesday evening. "You didn't cause the monstrous crime in Newtown and neither did we."
The start of the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show at the sprawling Sands Expo Convention Center comes amid a national debate on gun control following last month's shooting in Connecticut, which left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead. The gunman, who authorities say wielded a military-style assault rifle, also killed himself.
President Obama is expected to unveil recommendations Wednesday from Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who has led a task force studying methods to curb gun violence.
Also, New York state lawmakers passed the toughest gun-control law in the nation and were daring other states to do the same.
In his state-of-the-industry speech, Mr. Sanetti characterized weapons manufacturers, sellers and buyers as "misunderstood."
"Ours is a responsible industry that manufactures and sells lawful products to law-abiding citizens, who in turn exercise their constitutional right to own, use and enjoy firearms safely and responsibly for lawful purposes," he said.
Mr. Sanetti's remarks drew criticism from gun-control advocates who said promoting and selling military-style assault rifles is the growth model for an industry that the foundation said is coming off a profitable $4.1 billion year.
"There's a dirty little secret here in the wake of Newtown," said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "One of the primary areas for marketing and growth in the gun industry right now is assault weapons. The other is compact-style handguns for people who carry guns in public."
"What's sexy and promoted is military-style assault weapons, not bolt-action deer-hunting rifles," Mr. Everitt said. "In truth, the lobbying of the NSSF and their partners at the NRA is the sole reason we now live in an America where homicidal maniacs are allowed to stockpile firearms, often legally."