Effects of the national debate on gun control were evident Saturday at the Minnesota Weapons Collectors Association show in Rochester — attendance was higher than usual, and people were buying up guns faster than usual.
That was the report gun dealers gave Sunday morning as they manned their exhibitor tables at Mayo Civic Center. Association President John Chappuie said, at one point on Saturday, the line to get into Exhibitor Hall stretched the length of the Civic Center's North Lobby.
"Saturday was a barn burner," the Faribault man said. "But with the political climate the way it is, the next few shows are going to be well-attended."
Since the school massacre in Connecticut last month, gun control debates and pending federal legislative proposals have sent people running to gun stores and trade shows to buy weapons that could be banned soon.
"There's a lack of product. People are buying and stocking up, even if they don't need it," Chappuie said. "But this will die down. We had the same hoarding problem just before the last election."
About 2,700 people attended the weapons show on Saturday, the MWCA's Executive Director Gail Foster said. Last year, the show drew about 2,800 for the whole weekend.
Typically, the association's eight or nine shows per year attract between 1,800 and 2,400 people, although up to 8,000 have attended its largest exhibition at the state fairgrounds in March, Foster said.
Ammunition was the biggest seller at the Rochester show, Chappuie said, along with all things related to high-capacity gun magazines — which are ammunition storage devices that feed bullets to attached guns.
In addition, assault weapons, or high-capacity, military-style guns, were being traded for and sold at high rates, said exhibitor Craig Coordes, a dealer from Lansing, Minn.
"Everybody's trying to make a quick buck," he said.
"Everybody's trying to capitalize on the possible ban," added his wife, Sharon Coordes.
But a ban on assault weapons won't prevent mass shootings in the future, the couple said.
"We don't need any more gun control," Craig Coordes said. "We need to enforce the laws we have out there. My personal opinion is that if they wouldn't have had such tight gun control in Connecticut, somebody at the school might have had a gun and could have stopped it."
That was the sentiment expressed at several exhibitor tables Sunday. One Rochester dealer, who asked to remain anonymous, said a ban on assault weapons would not have prevented the Connecticut shooting and a federal ban is a "knee-jerk reaction" by legislators who feel pressured to do something, anything.
"My view is this is not a gun control issue; it's a mental-health issue. That's the root of the problem," Chappuie said. "They'll probably do something at the federal level, probably with high-capacity magazines. And the people it will really affect are the honest gun owners."