Gun buyers flock to Newberry gunshow
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:27 p.m.
When Terry Jewell holds one of his gun shows at the American Legion Hall in Newberry, it typically draws a crowd from the region that is steady but still allows plenty of space to navigate the aisles.
On Saturday, the line stretched several hundred feet before the door opened. Cars were parked along State Road 26 because the lot was full. And it was difficult to walk in the Legion Hall without brushing against someone else.
The crowd was evidence of concern that the federal government will enact new restrictions on the sale and purchase of firearms in the wake of the December shootings in Newtown, Conn., said Jewell, vendors and customers.
"We used to draw people from 50 to 75 miles. We have people today from Miami," said Jewell, who promotes about 30 shows a year. "The crowds have been significantly bigger due to the president going on television."
Jewell was referring to President Obama's pledge that he would work for stricter regulation of guns after the Newtown shootings, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also killed his mother and himself.
Vice President Joe Biden was given the task of developing a set of recommendations. After meeting with groups on all sides of the issue, Biden is scheduled to offer a set of recommendations to Obama on Tuesday. Congressional approval would be needed for changes to federal gun laws.
Gun control advocates believe greater restrictions will save lives by making it more difficult for people to buy weapons and ammunition.
Among the possible recommendations are broader background checks, including closing the "gun show loophole" that allows unlicensed individuals to sell their guns at shows without requiring a background check on the buyer.
Jewell compared an unlicensed gun dealer selling a weapon at the gun shows to a gun sale between two neighbors, which would not involve a background check.
About 50 vendors displayed wares at Saturday's sale. Some were showing or selling their own weapons, which ranged from antiques to modern firearms. Others were licensed professionals selling a range of weapons from handguns to AR-15s — a generic name for the type of semi-automatic rifle Lanza used in the Sandy Hook shootings.
Donnie Coxe, who was selling semi-automatic rifles and accessories, said buyers have become more interested in them because the sale of those types of weapons may be targeted for restrictions.
"We haven't sold a lot of them today, but we are getting a lot of lookers," Coxe said. "People are scared that something is going to happen, so they are trying to get them now before they can't get them at all."
Enthusiasts said AR-15s are used in long-range target shooting and hunting.
But handguns are still the most popular weapon sold at the shows, Jewell said, particularly because Florida has fairly liberal laws in allowing residents to get concealed weapon permits.
Included at the show was a registration booth for a required safety course to get a concealed weapon permit.
The guns Lanza used in the shooting had been legally purchased by his mother. Jewell said women are increasingly buying guns and estimated that about 30 percent of the people at the show Saturday were women.
Among them was Madeline De Silva, of Gainesville, who recently bought a gun and was planning to get a concealed-carry permit.
De Silva said she has doubts about whether greater restrictions on gun sales will be effective at preventing mass shootings.
"It seems like it will be kind of tough to pass those laws," she said. "It's kind of hard to legislate morality, so I don't know if more laws are going to do anything."