Gun-toting's fine at a gun show-- as long as the weapons aren't loaded.
Signs on the door warn visitors that loaded weapons are not allowed.
By Wick Hunt
I anticipate that a trip to the Fishersville Gun and Knife show on January 27 at the Augusta Expo will be a visual, and therefore photographic, cornucopia so I arrive armed with my Nikon. I'm shocked to find a sign taped to the door forbidding unauthorized photography (along with signs forbidding loaded weapons, and felons carrying the same).
C&E Gun Shows Inc. are sponsors of this show, as well as 72 other gun shows this year. Later I look at their website, which clearly states, “All political material must be pre-approved by show manager. No photography or video allowed without written permission of promoter. No media interviews allowed. No loaded firearms– no exceptions!” Similar warnings are posted on signs on the front doors.
At the door, a gentleman is inspecting the many firearms being carried in to make sure they are unloaded. Once inspected, the owners– nearly all of them white and male– shoulder their weapons and stride into the crowded arena, which is located in an industrial area midway between Staunton and Waynesboro. It's a little unclear to this novice what they're going to do with them.
Today I'm with a friend who's shopping for a shotgun, and whose son has joked that this trip earns him another punch on his redneck carrying card: own an ATV and a pickup truck with a dog cage and gun rack, and attend a Nascar race and a gun show. Check, check, check, and check.
Vendor’s tables pack the Augusta Expo’s floor in neat grids. They display their hardware at spaces rented for $60 a day. There's something for nearly every shooting interest. There are huge displays of pistols: revolvers (antique and modern), semi-automatics, single shot dueling sets, eponymous derringers, ornate and plain, flint and cap, air and black powder. Racks and racks of rifles: single shot, bolt action, lever action (including a replica of the customized Winchester rifle popularized by Chuck Conners in the 1958 TV show The Rifleman), pump and over-and-under shotguns, elephant guns, blunderbusses, semi-automatic shot guns and rifles (including the now infamous Bushmaster semi-automatic).
Some dealers wander up and down the aisles shouldering rifles with flags poking out of the barrels printed with the description of the gun and its price. Accessories are also sold. Large capacity magazines and extra ammo seem popular. At times the ceiling looks like a light show as people try out the different colored laser sights. Body armor is available, accessorized with pockets for extra ammo, or snacks.
Speaking of snacks, there is food. Nuts and candy can be purchased, as can Girl Scout cookies from a woman and two young girls– some of the few children present. Doomsday preppers can get outfitted with years of freeze-dried supplies, complete with survivalist recipe books. A sign on the table of the Expo’s Budweiser Burger Bar forbids gun sales at the dinner tables.
For the ladies there is theme jewelry, and lush animal pelts that have been fashioned into clutches and purses. Move over, Coach! As for the dress code, camo is king.
Second Amendment politically themed clothing is sold alongside cute cat posters. One metal plaque, designed to be placed on your front door, catches my eye: “Warning: This door is locked for your protection, not mine. Homeowner armed.”
The show is over at 4pm Sunday. I purchase a display case for my arrowheads and drive the not- quite-one-hour trip home to Charlottesville. Imagine my surprise when the local news reports a young man has marched into Kroger with a loaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. He's been questioned and released, since what he did was legal in Virginia.
What created quite a stir at Kroger did not turn a head at the show. But then again, at the gun show, you were required to prove your gun was empty before entering. Kroger shoppers did not enjoy this same protection.