Cars and trucks lined the street and filled the parking lot near the National Guard Armory in Manhattan on Saturday during the third annual Gun and Knife Show sponsored by U.S. Weapons Collectors.
Ryan Peyton, show manager, said the organization hosted about 60 vendors and set up 220 tables for the event.
Peyton said three years ago there weren’t half as many tables and vendors — or half as many people braving the cold and snow.
“Ever since the Connecticut shooting, our crowds have become bigger,” he said.
This show was no exception.
Leslie Gifford, owner of B & G Gun of Burlington and a vendor at the show, said the last three months have been extremely busy for him.
He attributed the sudden spike in business to the President Barack Obama’s push for stricter policies on gun ownership.
Gifford said he had been vending at gun and knife shows for more than 26 years, and attended 34 shows last year alone. Unlike other vendors, he said he preferred to deal in more traditional hunting and gaming rifles and carried only a few semi-automatic rifles. He also preferred to not carry any of the semi-automatic rifles that were all steel, choosing instead to stock rifles with wooden stocks and grips.
“I call them silly guns or black iron,” he said. “I don’t handle that. Most of my stuff are hunting guns.”
But there was no shortage of vendors who did carry the other sort. One vendor displayed nothing but all-steel rifles, and crowds didn’t seem to hover at his table any more or less than others in the show.
County Commissioner Ron Wells was among the attendees who had come to see what guns the show had to offer.
“I’m just an old farm boy,” he said. “I can’t afford any; I just came out to see who’s here.”
He said he had been coming to shows since he was a kid and enjoyed looking at what was out there for sale.
Several vendors had not only new top-of-the-line firearms, but also weapons dating back to the 19th century — and virtually every year in between.
Vendors hawked ammunition, reloading components, scopes, Tasers, clothing, jewelry, knives, and targets. Even a taxidermist displayed his work for avid hunters interested in mounting a trophy or two.
Peyton said safety was high priority at the show. Security guards stood at the door and wandered through the crowd. Vendors displaying firearms zip-tied every weapon so they could not be fired or hold a round of ammunition.
Also, when attendees purchased a weapon, it had to have a sticker on it to prove it had been bought and paid for before they left the building.
Peyton said it was up to the vendor to enforce federal and state the gun purchasing laws. He said in the state of Kansas, a Kansas resident can sell to another Kansas resident without running a background check. But if an out-of-state vendor wanted to sell a firearm in Kansas, he said, the vendor would have to be a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer and also would have to run a background check on the purchaser. He said the law differ from state to state.
Although he admitted larger crowds meant more sales, Peyton said he was concerned about people who did not know how to handle firearms purchasing weapons out of fear.
He said most accidents occur when someone who has not been properly trained in handling a firearm picks one up and accidentally shoots someone or something.
Peyton said creating more laws for average citizens to follow was not going to stop a criminal from breaking the law.
“Guns take a bad rap,” he said. “What all governments and Congress are trying to pass wouldn’t have prevented either the Colorado or the Connecticut shootings. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a head wound.”
The show was open all day Saturday and was to be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Peyton said they plan to be back in December for another show.