Gun show does a brisk business

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 29, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Aisles were crowded at the gun show held at the county fairgrounds last weekend.

Whether it was talk out of Washington, D.C. about banning certain weapons or the extensive promotion, a two-day gun show held at the Haywood County Fairgrounds last weekend was a hit.

Ron Haven, a businessman and county commissioner in Macon County, has been promoting gun and other shows for several years now. At previous gun shows, he said numerous local residents asked about bringing a show to Haywood.

Judging from the packed aisles that sometimes slowed browsing and the positive comments from a number of vendors, the idea was a good one. Haven said his records showed more than 2,000 individuals, including many from outside the county, attended the show.

“I think all the gun things in the news are just making our business better,” said Rick Nelson, who operates a year-around store at Uncle Bill’s Flea Market in Whittier. “We got here 15 minutes late and there were lines out the door and cars out to the road.”

Rick and his wife, Patti, sell no guns, but have a wide variety of holsters, lasers and protective sprays.

Toward the end of the first day, the Nelsons said their sales at the gun show were three times what they would have been during their Friday through Sunday hours at Whittier, and felt certain they would sell their entire inventory by the end of the weekend show.

Haven, who started Gem Capitol Shows, arranges for security around-the-clock, including hiring off-duty law enforcement officers to ensure no loaded guns are brought into the show. Those who happen to miss the signs outside banning loaded weapons get their ammunition confiscated at the door.

While there are many booths that sell guns of all shapes and sizes, other vendors market things like camping supplies, rare coins, knives and plenty of collectibles. Haven said variety, along with plenty of promotion, is the key to having a successful show. A number of vendors spent the night in the county, and he said there were many from out of the county who attended as well.

“If they’re like our family,” Haven said of his family of four, “they spend about $200 a day in your county eating out, buying gas and covering the cost of lodging."

“We don’t have what Walmart does,” Haven said, picking up a gun one of the earliest repeater rifles made dating back to 1875. It’s one of numerous collector items he has at a booth he runs in addition to overseeing the show. I’m not into fire power. I don’t hunt, and I don’t target practice. I just collect antiques.”


Ammo, gun costs up

The cost of ammunition was a hot topic at the show. Rodney Burgin of Marion drove over for the show to check out the Colt .45s, which he has collected since age 13.

In the past six weeks, the price of ammunition has more than tripled, he said. A box of 500 rounds for his revolvers used to cost $150, and is now $500.

“It’s price gouging is what it is. It’s dirty politics,” he said.

Haven agreed prices have gone up, but said it is not because less ammunition is being produced.

“People are afraid they won’t be able to get it, so they are buying it up in mass quantities,” he said.

The prices of guns have gone up, and options are less as extensive in some areas, likely for the same reason.

Butch Byrd of Brevard used to operate a gun shop, but got out of the business because of all the regulations. He now resells military-type memorabilia, including military uniforms, and an authentic, 13-foot German flag with a swastika. It is a piece he picked up at an auction and is priced at $1,500.

One of the happy customers Saturday was John Sizemore, who found a used youth shotgun at Haven's table. He planned to present the gun to his wife to use for protection when he is out of town.

Background checks

There were a number of people leaving the show with guns, some they brought with them with the possibility of a trade or sale, and others who had just purchased new ones. Those who already had a concealed carry permit could take their finds home immediately, Haven said, since their permit included a background check.

The same with those who were buying guns considered collectibles or those who passed the instant background check used by registered firearms dealers.

In some cases, people would have to wait. For instance, if there were multiple names in the data base and a question arose during the background check, a person may be advised to come back the next day after the issue was better researched, Haven said.

About 90 percent of the vendors at his shows are licensed federal firearms dealers who had to follow the same rules at a gun show as they do in a store, he said. This process that includes a background check, plus maintaining records of gun purchases and sales. Private dealers who sell guns at a show don't need to follow any background check process.

Volunteers with the National Rifle Association were at one of the booths handing out leaflets on proposed gun legislation and answering questions.

There are a number of misconceptions about gun shows, they noted. For instance, licensed dealers who set up at shows can't skirt federal or state laws on weapon sales. Another concerns fully automatic weapons, which are considered weapons of mass destruction and aren't owned by very many because of the strict laws governing their sale and the expense.

"There's a six- to nine-month waiting period to buy one of those," said NRA volunteer Daniel Cloer, "and they can cost tens of thousands of dollars."

There was a $7 per person entrance fee at the show. Haven's next gun show is scheduled in Franklin on Feb. 23-24.