Back for the third year, the Gun and Knife Show drew a crowd Saturday at the Great Bend Expo. Anthony Lutz, a promoter for event sponsor U.S. Weapons, based in Manchester, Iowa, said they’ve seen a spike in attendance at their shows in recent months.
“Gun sales have been up,” Lutz said, particularly the sale of semi-automatic weapons.
The show continues today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Expo I building.
Vendors like Bill Keeler of Quality Ammunition from McPherson, whose display includes AR-15 rifles, and Del Meyer of Gun’N-4-U in Kinsley, selling Romanian AK-47s with 30-round magazines, said sales – and prices – are up because of renewed attempts to ban certain weapons. California Senator Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce a new version of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban at beginning of this year’s congressional session, and President Obama has said he supports the effort.
“It won’t go anywhere,” Keeler predicted. But it has caused a surge in sales. “People are getting guns in and selling them for double what the cost is now.” He said the same thing would probably happen to banjos, “if Obama tried to make banjos illegal.”
Meyer said the Clinton administration’s Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which lasted from 1994 to 2004, is what prompted him to become a licensed dealer, and he sees the country headed that way again. “People who don’t know better think people who come to gun shows are uninformed and uneducated,” he said. “You’ll find most of them are very informed about politics and their freedom, and they’re not willing to give up any of it.”
He considers the AK-47 and similar popular semiautomatic rifles to be “the modern musket.”
People who don’t know a lot about guns see a rifle like the military-looking AR-15 and call it an “assault weapon,” but technically that is not correct, said Trenton Goering, a member of the National Guard who was working with Keeler on Saturday. Even some collectors use the term incorrectly. Fully automatic machine guns that continuously fire rounds with one pull of the trigger have been illegal for years, while semiautomatic rifles that fire a single bullet each time the trigger is pulled have been around for more than 100 years. So, what would be a more accurate name for guns like the AR-15? “Modern sporting rifles,” Goering said.
The Gun and Knife Show isn’t just about modern weapons, Lutz said, noting the large selection of handguns, shotguns and antique firearms featured. There are also knives and swords, survival supplies, and a hodgepodge of collectibles — everything from belt buckles and antique marbles to wooden frog toys.
“Antiques are what I like,” said Allan Walker of Great Bend, whose sale table features older weapons and items such as a Civil War canteen. “Most of my stuff is Civil War.”
People of all ages browsed at the wares Saturday. Some brought guns of their own, in hopes of trading or getting a question answered. “We require all firearms coming in to be tied (with a zip strip) inoperable,” Lutz said, and no concealed carry is allowed. The weapons on display are also secure. “We want to make sure it’s safe for everybody.”
Gun shows themselves have been the target of some potential gun control acts, but for collectors the shows and the weapons are as American as baseball and apple pie. The so-called “gun show loophole,” that allows unlicensed sellers to sell guns without conducting a background check, is another misnomer, Lutz said. Federal law allows anyone who isn’t a licensed dealer to sell his or her gun – something they could also do from their home or a parking lot, he pointed out. All of the federal laws that apply outside the show also apply inside.