COLUMBIA — Ammunition, guns and accessories lined the tables of the 135 vendors at the Columbia Gun Show, which continues Sunday at the Boone County Fairgrounds.
By Saturday afternoon, sales had doubled from last year, and attendance continued to rise, Dennis Pearson, manager of the gun show, said. One thousand people had entered the doors Friday evening, and he was expecting another 2,500 on Saturday.
Vendors at the show attributed rising sales and increased attendance on the possibility for stricter gun regulations and a potential ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used in the Newtown, Conn., shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
After the shootings in which 20 children were killed, President Barack Obama committed to making gun control a central issue in his second term. Additionally Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce legislation that would ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of 120 specifically named firearms and strengthen the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, according to her website.
"Everyone's freaking out," Jessica Story, vendor for Kenzie's Optics, said.
Not only did the gun show attract more people this year, but people were buying guns and gun-related items at much higher prices than in previous years, Pearson said. The price for the AR-15 had increased $300 to $400 in the past two weeks as most vendors were selling the weapon at prices ranging from $1,500 to $1,975.
Some vendors such as Bob Hofmeister of Xtreme Outdoors, sold out of the AR-15 model. He sold the last of his eight AR-15's last week at a previous gun show in Missouri. His top selling items at the Columbia Gun Show were concealable handguns, which contributed to a 70 percent increase in sales from last year.
While some people attended the gun show to purchase semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, others came because their local sporting good stores had sold out of what they were looking for, Hofmeister said.
Andy Bolling, 30, purchased a Savage 30-06 to use for deer hunting. He said he sees a ban on guns unlikely because there are too many hunters who support the right to bear arms.
Gary Sharpe, 74, was selling antique guns from his personal collection. The guns on his table were at least 50 years old, no longer in production or the ammunition for the guns was no longer readily available, he said. Sharpe, who was a licensed gun dealer for nearly 50 years, said he is a life-long supporter of the Second Amendment.
"It's the greatest thing since peanut butter," he said.
Vendors at the gun show included private sellers and licensed gun dealers. In order to sell a gun, private vendors need to verify that a potential buyer is a Missouri resident and at least 21 years old.
On the other hand, licensed gun dealers have to conduct an FBI background check on all potential buyers, according to federal law. The potential buyer is either denied, delayed or approved on the spot. The delay can take up to three days, Pearson said.
In 2011 the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence considered Missouri's guns laws weak by allowing the sale of guns without background checks.
Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.