On Guns Becoming More Popular and Mainstream

This weekend I had planned to go to the gun show in Oaks, just to see what there was to see. I’ve been wanting to grab a Ruger LCP for some time, but having been unemployed for several months, and worried about my job for a year leading up to the dissolution of my former employer, I haven’t really been doing much gun wise. This was my first gun show in more than a year. I was worried when a reader sent me a picture of the line waiting to get in Saturday morning:

Oaks Gun Show Crowd

I decided I’d wait until Sunday. Sunday crowds are usually thinner, but with the downside that the show has been relatively picked over by that time, because collectors usually have snatched up all the interesting pieces by then. I wasn’t really looking for a collector piece, however, so that didn’t concern me. I walked in about 2:00PM Sunday, which would have been two hours before the show closed.

“Holy crap!” I exclaimed to Bitter, “I’ve never seen this many people at a gun show in my life, and it’s Sunday, two hours before the show closes.” It was extremely difficult to get around the floor, and were I not taller than most people, spotting guns through the herd was going to be impossible. The LCP is generally going for about $325-$350 at most gun stores I’ve been to, but sometimes at shows you can find dealers coming down from central and northern Pennsylvania, where prices are cheaper, and who don’t mark their inventory up to Philadelphia area price levels. I counted six LCPs left in the show, and one of them was an even $300, from a Columbia, PA based gun store. I was hoping to find a little lower, but getting to go to a gun show and beating the cheapest price in the area by $25 is enough to satisfy me. It took a while to get the dealer’s attention through the crowds of people surrounding his tables, but fortunately they were a well oiled machine about processing people through paperwork and NICS. They had at least four people there processing paperwork, and they needed them. While slowly moving my way through the herd, I was listening carefully to what dealers were telling people, and observing the makeup of the crowd. Some observations:

  • People were crowding around pistol displays. I don’t think folks are buying too many rifles right now.
  • There were far far more women there than at any gun show I’ve been at in the past. There were also more people bringing the whole family, including the kids.
  • A lot more African-Americans and other minority groups than I’ve seen at past shows, and Philadelphia area shows have never been lilly white.
  • Lots more gawkers than I’ve ever noticed at a show. I don’t mean gun people coming to look, but people who probably have no gun experience coming for, well, the experience. Noticed a couple of, what sounded like Hindi speaking 20 somethings, who’s booger hooks went immediately on the bang switch when handed a suppressed .22, with a wide-eyed look on their face like they had never seen anything like this before in their lives. I was relatively amused until the kid turned the gun sideways to muzzle Bitter and me with it, but after that they proceeded on like kids seeing Disneyland for the first time.
  • Overheard one conversation between a woman and a Class III dealer, where the woman expressed a desire to try shooting a machine gun, for which the dealer happily invited her up to his range to try anything he had to shoot, including something belt fed if she liked. Her response to his invitation was rather enthusiastic, and I didn’t get the impression she had been doing this gun thing for a while.

So our opponents in the gun control movement can be in denial all the want; there’s a sea change that’s happened in this issue in the past several years, and now I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Guns aren’t just for fat old white guys anymore, and apparently neither are gun shows. The political implications of this will play out over the next decade, and it should be very interesting.

19 thoughts on “On Guns Becoming More Popular and Mainstream”

  1. It was pretty much the same story here a couple of weeks ago. Although the line for admission wasn’t quite half as long as the one pictured. The Youngstown area show is usually crowded, but i’d never seen so many people in attendance before.

  2. I love that there are at least 7 clearly identifiable women in that photo of the entrance. There were so many women at the show, it was crazy. I’ve only see more at one other show in North Virginia which also seems to have more dealers who sell jewelry and other non-gun items.

    I do also find it interesting that most of the women were there and clearly interested in guns themselves. They weren’t just being dragged along while looking bored with their boyfriends or husbands. One guy stood out with his wife who was shopping for a gun and his teenaged daughter who was interested enough to be asking questions.

  3. I sold three rifles this weekend out of the 4 I had displayed. The vendor next to me sold several dozen long guns. What they told me hasn’t been moving well are .22’s.

  4. What! They did a NICS check on you? What about the gun show loophole we always hear about from the Brady Campaign and MAIG? How can there be a loophole if a dealer did a check?

    Is it just a myth and they have been lying to us? I just can’t believe it!

  5. Same story at the Northern VA show this past weekend. I haven’t seen it this busy since the Obama Rush, but back then it was all about hoarding stuff. This weekend was more even-keel.

    I went in Sunday afternoon and had the same experience. Thick crowds. This show was also heavily represented with women and kids/teens with their parents. They weren’t just drug along, either. They were into it. I have never see so many families – fully involved – as I have at this show, and I have been watching the non-white-guy count rise over the years.

    Women were going for pistols and shotguns. Men crowded the collectors tables and everything else. I saw many women on their own; some of them were even lugging cases of ammo. And there were lots of new entrants, including one 20-something dude who was getting schooled by his 20-something, belly-ring, crop-topped girlfriend who was explaining the relative vicissitudes of form-factor in the selection of a concealed carry gun. I have no idea where she was concealing hers, because her clothing left little to hide. That said, not the first role-reversal I saw yesterday.

    We’ve all been saying it for a while, but going to a modern gun show proves it: gun control has jumped the shark. Now we just need to inform our overlords.

  6. I still don’t quite understand the scale of buying going on. There is essentially no crime (compared when I was young). Guns aren’t cheap–and lots of people are unemployed. I am hoping that this is a proxy for what is going to happen in November, with Mittens beating the Zero by about 25 points, and Tea Party Republicans having veto proof majorities in both houses of Congress.

    1. More likely a proxy for when Hairpiece Q. Mother-Shut Your Mouth! (almost what a fellow gun activist who stayed in Massachusetts far longer than I calls him) gets elected, along with Republican majorities lead by the usual squishes, continue fiscal business as usual … and then we run out of people willing to buy our debt at low or negative interest rates. Some may even be remembering Creditanstalt or watching the Eurozone drama anticipate a return of the crazy days in 2008 when fear of counterparty risk almost brought down much of the financial system.

      “Preppers” may be going mainstream (and isn’t that a nicer name than “survivalists”?) and a lot of the non-gun stuff that they buy is flying off the shelves.

      Eurozone contagion is what I’m focusing on in the short term and making sure I’ve got now what I will want or need in the foreseeable future that’s vaguely exotic, especially if things nasty over here. E.g. my first rifle plate (to avoid “punch to the sternum” short term incapacitation in a home invasion or whatever).

      Some of it is normalization (and that’s the sort of proxy you’re talking about). Some is the media fed perception of crime rates being “high” (and in absolute/historical terms, are they still fairly high?) Some might be the graying of the population: I know our hosts focused on women and younger types, but how many likely first time older folks were there?

      Anyway, it’s hard to see a downside to this.

    2. Down here there is no panic buying like when Obama came into power. The ammo is mostly selling out, but it takes a few days now. AR-15s are being picked up, but they are not selling like shotguns and pistols.

      I don’t think people are afraid of The Collapse ™, I think they got wind from CNN|ABC|CBS|AP that everybody else is buying a gun. So why not them?

      First timers are all over the place. They are all obviously thinking defense, but I don’t think they are responding to anything in particular. At least nothing acute. Yet. I talked to some folks and tried to help answer some basic questions, and they all said, “just because.”

      I’ll echo the self-reliance thing. TV Shows like Preppers and all those “Reel Life” crime shows are probably as much to credit as anything. And then there is probably the little eye in the back of their head watching Greece. And the thought that if Obama comes back, he won’t be shy about banning the gun in his second term. Might as well get one while you can.

      Who knows. It’s a Good Thing.

    3. I wasn’t seeing ‘panic buying’ like I did four years ago w/ people buying up every AK/AR mag etc. they could. I saw lots of collectors adding to their sets and people picking up guns they’ve ‘wanted for awhile’.

  7. Sebastian, I think you are missing the forest for the trees when you talk about the politics of this. The trees are the likely help gun politics will give to the GOP in various elections, and the pressure it will put on the Dems to give up on gun control even more than they already have.

    The forest, however, is the huge new ethic of self-reliance. Those people aren’t lining up in the cold to get weapons for sport. They are willingly taking up guns for self-defense and the defense of their families. This flies in the face of the standard GOP gloom about national decadence, exemplified by such gems as Mark Steyn trying to somehow draw a connection between Enrique Iglesias and the national debt. (No, I don’t get it either). Far from being a bunch of cowardly sheep having lots of sex while waiting to get hauled off to the gulags, people are taking active steps to survive the coming years.

    It could be argued that Stranger in a Strange Land’s publication in 1961 was more significant, politically, than Kennedy’s inauguration in the same year. Certainly, Deep Throat (the movie, not the informer) was a better indication of the nation’s mindset in the 1970’s than Nixon’s landslide reelection against McGovern. Walmart had more effect on the 1990’s than did Clinton. I would argue that people who care enough about the future to arm themselves, and to arm their family members, are unlikely to make good comrades. If it’s true that culture determines politics, this pro-gun trend does not bode well for people like David Brock or George Soros.

    1. Oh, I wouldn’t deny any of that. I didn’t say much about where I think this is going to go, because your guess is probably as good as mine. I tend to agree that this isn’t going to end well for the nanny state, ultimately.

      1. One of the most depressing things about the Bush II administration’s later years was the way that the libertarian streak in the nation gradually died. People tend to forget that things were really looking great from a liberty standpoint in 2000. The S&W boycott had beat back Clinton’s anti-gun agenda. Gore had lost because of it. At first, 9/11, although hardly worth the gain, seemed to encourage the cause of freedom, as the passengers of one of the planes fought back against the terrorists, and as the American people overwhelmingly endorsed arming pilots. Unfortunately, thanks to self-interested political hacks like David Frum, the Todd Beamer War became the Patriot Act War. By 2003, Bush was promising to sign the AWB extension if it were passed by Congress and killing the armed pilot program.

        1. By 2003, Bush was promising to sign the AWB extension if it were passed by Congress….

          That was Bush’s position in 2000, here’s the first vaguely reputable page my Google search found, there’s plenty more.

          Al Gore was so much worse (e.g. a mandatory photo license ID to purchase a handgun, one gun a month, reinstate the 3 day waiting period and in general he made a big deal of it) plus he of course also wanted to renew the AW ban, that there was no contest, especially since no one expected the Republican Congress to pass it (correct as it turned out).

          Was the armed pilot program killed per se, or just made dangerous, nearly impossible, and pretty much by design liable to result in accidental discharges when a pilot had to exit the cockpit?

          In retrospect, picking Norman Mineta to head the DoT when that was expected to be a nothingburger position was a terrible mistake, compounded by Bush’s inability or whatever to purge the incompetent or worse of his appointees.

    1. They go boom when asked.

      That list is five handguns priced from $175 to $314; average is about $250. Not everyone can afford the expensive gun that the gun forum/blog denizens love. I imagine the conversation at the gun shop usually starts with “Show me a Glock, ” and then quickly moves to “Show me something cheaper.”

      If people are worried about something – or more likely, just interested in getting something for “whatever” – than these are as good as any other and beat having nothing.

      Some folks will buy up later on. A few will carry one. Most others will shoot it one day at a range and keep what they bought in a drawer and feel better for owning it. Both will think twice before voting for the idiot who wants to take their guns from them.

      It’s progress.

  8. That show was also advertised on a huge electronic billboard on the PA Turnpike between Bensalem and Willow Grove — where I saw it most mornings and evenings on my commute….
    I don’t know if that helped drive attendance up. First time I’ve seen that level of “expensive, I guess” advertising…

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