Gun enthusiasts lined up around Exhibition Hall at the Maryland State Fairgrounds Friday, drawn to this weekend's gun show because of fears about possible new laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre
"Because people are scared," Neil Kravitz, a spokesman for the gun show, said. "The minute they say the word 'gun ban' 300 million guns are going to change hands.
"It’s no different than going on the air and saying 'there’s going to be a snowstorm,'" he continued. "Then [the supermarkets] run out of toilet paper. There is no difference."
Increased gun control has been something many local leaders, such as County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson, as well as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, have been vocally supporting in the wake of December's tragedy.
Kamenetz called on lawmakers to tighten Maryland's gun laws in December, and proposed ending the sale of "military-grade assault weapons" and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Rawlings-Blake, along with Baltimore City and Montgomery County state lawmakers, also voiced their support for a plethora of new gun control measures during a press conference last month.
Although this weekend's show has a higher profile in light of the recent debate about firearms, the gun show, presented by Appalachian Promotions, is a common event at the fairgrounds with multiple dates scheduled throughout the year. The show features 650 tables filled with guns, ammunition, apparel and novelties.
Gun shops, as well as shows, are benefiting from a "back lash" caused by talk of banning assault weapons coming from the White House and now the State House, said Kravitz, who is also a vendor and owner of NSK Company Ltd.
But Kravitz said sales were already on the uptick when President Barack Obama won his second term in office, because of fears about the president's gun policies.
"Then this awful thing happens in Connecticut and whatever was left is now gone. And you [don't] get ramped up again until January [when stores begin to carry more inventory]," he said.
As a result of the spike in demand, coupled with limited inventory following the holidays, the price of weaponry has also skyrocketed.
Kravitz and a friend, a regular at the show, joked about a particular gun on sale at another table that rose in price from $1,200 to $2,000 since the last time the show came to the fairgrounds.
"There’s no supply. And there’s demand. What does that do to cost? What happens when there’s no gasoline and you’re the only one whose got some? … Welcome to inflation," Kravtiz said.
Doors to the show opened Friday at noon, and it will run through the weekend. Promoters and vendors are bracing for the biggest crowd on Saturday.
The line Friday was filled with customers hoping to re-up on ammunition that gun owners haven't been able to find at stores.
"Everything is picked clean," Mike Storck, a local comedian and Parkville resident, said. "It’s so stupid. It’s like Beanie Babies."
Storck, who has been on the hunt for a new barrel for his AR-15, said even supplies that are not theoretically in jeopardy are flying off the shelves.
He said he noticed vendors, who are normally at the Timonium gun show, were absent, most likely because they don't have enough inventory.
"Maybe they’re sold out," he said. "Obviously there are plenty of tables, but you’re seeing a lot more knives, and dream catchers, and t-shirts, and beef jerky in a can, stuff like that."
He said concerns about possible bans are resulting in more interest in weapons that just resemble assault rifles.
"Even if it’s a .22-caliber Plinkster, but it looks like an AK or an AR, people are looking at it," Storck said. "It's so far removed from the gun they’re talking about, but just because it looks like it, people are fawning over it."
The gun show opens again Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $8.
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