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Gun buffs flock to firearms show at Mountains Center

Concerns over political change leads many to stock up on weaponry

POSTED: December 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Gun enthusiasts crowd the Georgia Mountains Center Arena on Saturday afternoon during the annual Eastman Gun Show. The show featured vendors supplying most anything related to guns and knives.

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A sour economy has done nothing to damper gun sales, judging by the near-overflow crowd for the Eastman Gun Show on Saturday at the Georgia Mountains Center.

Whether it was folks eyeing exotic weaponry or buying .38-caliber stocking stuffers, there was no shortage of firearms enthusiasts in what has been a regular event Gainesville event.

"It's a lot more people than usual," said Jessie Brizendine of Mayesville, who took his 9-year-old step-son to the show. "I'm sure politics has had some effect."

The looming inauguration of a Democratic president has influenced the gun marketplace, but opinions varied among Saturday's attendees as to whether Barack Obama's policies would pose a threat to second amendment advocates.

"They think the sky's going to fall in January," joked a skeptical Brizendine, who toted a .50-caliber handgun on his hip. "I don't think it's going to have an effect on anything other than the market."

"(Obama) has a lot of more important things to worry about than taking away people's machine guns," said one gun dealer who declined to give his name. He allowed that the election has boosted sales of so-called "assault weapons" like the AR-15 and AK-47.

A common concern is that Obama will reinstitute a Clinton-era assault weapon ban that expired during the current Bush administration.

"There's more than a concern, there's a fear," said National Rifle Association Volunteer Herb Speas of Morgantown, N.C., who spent the day signing up new members to the NRA. Speas said most members joined so they could have a voice in Washington.

Speas had signed up 60 new members by mid-afternoon and called the turnout "fantastic."

Speas, who regularly volunteers at guns shows, said recent attendance has seen a noticeable spike.
"All of them are way up since the election," he said.

Alabama gun dealer Albert Vandegriff said December gun shows are always well-attended, with hunters and Christmas shoppers buying firearms and ammunition. Many attendees were doing more looking than buying Saturday, however, and dealers were hopeful they would come back today to lay out the cash.

Vandegriff said folks should have a real concern about threats to the Second Amendment. He believes that well-armed areas like the Bible belt have fewer home break-ins than towns where gun control is more strict.

"An armed society is a polite society," Vandegriff said.



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