Gun show a big draw Participants say scrapping of Harrisburg expo attributed to attendance bump at showcase here
nTalk about gun control flowed freely at the event Sunday afternoon. BY P.J. REILLY, Staff Writer
Saturday would have been the opening day of the annual nine-day Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg.
As has been widely reported, that show -- billed as the largest hunting and fishing event in North America -- was canceled after the organizer said that no semiautomatic modern sporting rifles could be displayed or sold, and hundreds of exhibitors and celebrities vowed they wouldn't attend.
Saturday and Sunday, the Lancaster Muzzle Loading Rifle Association held its 54th annual gun show at the Farm & Home Center on Arcadia Road. Attendance was two to three times greater than it's been in recent years, club members said.
"Oh, I absolutely think it's because the Harrisburg show was canceled," said Paul Allison, a muzzleloading rifle builder from Gap. "We've just seen so many more people this year."
Club members declined to say exactly how many people attended previous shows or this year's show, but estimates ran well over 1,000 for the 2013 expo.
Primarily a show where older military, hunting and target rifles, handguns and shotguns are displayed and sold by 50-some exhibitors, talk about gun control flowed freely at the event Sunday afternoon.
"It's a political thing to try and get guns taken away from us," said Curt Wolf, owner of U.S. Armament Corp. in Ephrata. "The thing they keep talking about is firepower, which really doesn't mean anything. ...
"We had a couple of people do things with criminal intent, and now politicians want to eliminate our use by law-abiding citizens."
U.S. Armament builds and sells working reproductions of the 1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun. Five brass-encased barrels are capable of spitting out 800 rounds per minute by turning the gun's crank handle.
"It can be owned by the general public," Wolf said. "It just takes a standard registration," used whenever someone buys a rifle or a shotgun.
Wolf said most of his guns, which sell for $50,000 apiece, go to people and companies interested in having a working novelty firearm.
Allison's bread and butter is building flintlock muzzleloading rifles, like those carried by early American pioneers. But he said he owns all sorts of guns.
"I have modern guns," he said. "I have Winchester Model 12 shotguns; I have two left-handed bolt-action 270s. ... I have no problem with guns. I'm a gun person."
Still, Allison thinks there should be limitations on what guns citizens can own.
"I'm probably not going to be very popular saying this, but I am not in favor of AK-47s, ARs and 30-round magazines," he said.
"Personally I don't own one. I don't think there's anything wrong with having them if the person is responsible, but how do you keep them out of irresponsible people's hands?
"It's a horrible situation right now. America is in turmoil over this, and it ain't a good turmoil."
In addition to the cancellation of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, a member of the Lancaster Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, who asked not to be identified, said the turmoil over guns in the country is another reason attendance was up at this year's Lancaster gun show.
"I think people are afraid they won't be able to get some of these things, and so they are looking to buy wherever they can," he said.
One of the legal issues some politicians have talked about in recent weeks is enacting legislation to close the "gun-show loophole."
They claim people have circumvented background checks by buying guns at gun shows, where they say checks are lax or aren't performed at all.
That wasn't the case at the Lancaster Muzzle Loading Rifle Association's show, club members said. There were at least six exhibitors on site who held the Federal Firearms License needed to sell guns. And they were busy Saturday and Sunday.
"I couldn't get in to the system at all (Saturday) morning," Wolf said. "So I just waited and did as many as I could at one time when I did get in."
The "system" Wolf referenced is the computer-check system maintained by the state police, which determines if a potential gun buyer has a legal record that would preclude that person from buying a gun.
"There's no loophole at our show," said club member Jim Kleppinger.