Gun show draws big crowd in MinnesotaCLOQUET, Minn. — It was so crowded at the National Guard Armory in Cloquet on Saturday morning that at times it was nearly impossible to move.
By: John Lundy, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
CLOQUET, Minn. — It was so crowded at the National Guard Armory in Cloquet on Saturday morning that at times it was nearly impossible to move.
“This is usually a pretty good show,” said Kenny Kiefat of Aurora, Minn., an affable, lean man with a mustache and longish hair, as he stood behind long tables arranged in an L shape and covered with guns, knives and ammunition. “It seems like there’s quite a few people here.”
Kiefat has owned AC Expo for six years, putting on about 15 gun shows per year. Saturday’s show drew 850 people, he said later. That’s up from an average of 650-700 for the Cloquet show.
The attendees wandered slowly through an armory full of exhibitors featuring a vast array of guns, knives, survival gear and gun-related paraphernalia.
They’re on a mission, said Kiefat, a machinist when he’s not running gun shows.
“Everybody got paranoid,” he said. “The gun industry is in a frenzy. They’re scared.”
The Dec. 14 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead, has prompted legislative proposals that already are affecting the gun show business, Kiefat said. Some kinds of ammunition aren’t available and many semiautomatic rifles are nearly impossible to find; manufacturers can’t make them fast enough to meet the demand.
Tight supply usually means higher prices, and customers said that was the case with the gun show.
“Prices are crazy,” said Dale Kitchenmaster, 53, of Duluth, who was browsing the busy aisles with his wife, Tammy.
Kris Sorensen of Superior, who was carrying his wideeyed grandson through the cramped display area, has noticed the same thing.
“I see the prices are inflated,” said Sorensen, 51. “I think people … want to buy things before they become outlawed.”
But the prospective buyers — predominantly male, predominantly adults with a few children in tow — seemed cautious, said vendor Steve Otten of Isanti, Minn.
“From what I’ve seen there aren’t a whole lot of guns moving out, contrary to what we expected,” said Otten, who has been selling survival gear at gun shows for about a year.
But people were buying the magazines that can hold 10, 30 or 100 rounds of ammunition, he said.
There would be a change in gun shows like Saturday’s, if a Minnesota legislator has his way.
Minnesota State Rep. Michael Paymar plans to draft legislation this week to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Under present laws, people who purchase guns from licensed dealers at shows must go through a background check, Paymar said. But individuals can sell from a private collection without requiring a background check.
Paymar’s legislation would require background checks even with private sellers. Hunting rifles would be exempt, he said.
“The proposal seems very reasonable to me, and I would hope to most gun owners in light of some of the tragedies we’ve seen,” he said.
It doesn’t seem reasonable to Brian Russell of Littlefork, who sat at the gun show behind a display of a few guns from his personal collection.
“Those background checks — most people that commit crimes steal their weapons,” Russell said. “And they don’t go through background checks anyhow.”
Russell shared his table with Julie Beck of Biwabik, who was offering her own collection of knitted wool slippers. They seemed like an odd couple, but Beck and Russell proved to be equally passionate about gun rights.
President Barack Obama’s response to the violence in Newtown was a package of proposals that would include bans on military-style rifles and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Beck and Russell said such laws would infringe on their Second Amendment rights and on legitimate lifestyle choices.
“They say nobody should have assault rifles,” Beck said. “Well, a lot of people shoot competitively with them.”
Added Russell: “And also we hunt with them.”
Sorensen confirmed that, saying he hunts coyote with a military-style rifle and has even killed three deer with his rifle. “I just enjoy the gun; the feel of the gun,” he said. “It doesn’t recoil as much.”
Troy Helenius of Iron River said he considered buying a military-style rifle for coyote hunting, but “now I’m probably not going to buy it just because of the stereotype that they have.”
The Kitchenmasters said they approve of the background check idea. “That would weed out some of the wrong people getting guns,” Dale Kitchenmaster said.
But the proposals about assault rifles are based on misconceptions about guns, they said. And although “nobody needs a magazine with 100 rounds of ammunition,” Dale Kitchenmaster said, a limit of 10 rounds would be too restrictive.
At a booth in the middle of the armory, Ed Severson of Oakdale, Minn., wasn’t selling any guns or ammunition. “I like unusual items,” he said.
Among his wares: a flashlight that doubles as a stun gun, a pen that can be opened to reveal a tiny blade, and a comb that hides a switchblade.
He takes a middle-of-theroad position on gun rights, Severson said.
“I think people should be able to own firearms,” he said, but “I really don’t think there’s any need for assault weapons with huge magazines and all that stuff.”