NEWTOWN, Conn. -- When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.
"It's a huge tradition here," said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.'s gun ordinances in September. "I'd rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone's doing it safely."
Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. However, a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren't the problem.
"I wish that, at that school, somebody was armed," said Kuthair Habboush, a software engineer who keeps a weapon at home for protection. "If a security guard or a teacher or a principal had been armed, somebody could have taken the [killer] out" before his lethal rampage.
Firearms are deep in the culture of this corner of New England. Two of America's most storied weapons manufacturers, Colt and Winchester, were based in Connecticut. Some historians say the West was won in Hartford -- the state capital and birthplace of the Colt revolvers favored by lawmen and outlaws alike beginning in the 1830s.
Today, dozens of gun dealers, gun instructors, gun repair shops and shooting ranges do a brisk business in Newtown and nearby cities and towns. Private hunting clubs are widespread, many with waiting lists for membership.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a powerful lobbying group for gun retailers, has its headquarters across the highway from Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"You'd be surprised," said Sean Eldridge, owner of Parker Gunsmithing, a gun repair shop in nearby Danbury, referring to his customers. "They're regular people and they have an arsenal in their basement."
That was the case with Nancy Lanza, a wealthy divorced mother who enjoyed jazz, craft beer and frequent visits to shooting ranges. She kept at least five weapons, all legally registered to her, in the large Colonial-style house she shared with her 20-year-old son, Adam.
Early on Dec. 14, authorities say, Adam Lanza shot his mother repeatedly in the head with her .22-caliber rifle as she lay in bed. He then drove to the elementary school, shot his way in and fired dozens of rounds into two first-grade classes using her Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. Some of the children were shot 11 times. He then shot and killed himself with one of his mother's pistols.
Far from the wealthy coastal communities that serve as bedroom suburbs and weekend resorts for New York City, 70 miles south, Newtown was a farming and hunting area for generations.