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Kenyon: Scenes From a Gun Show

  • After selling concessions with Boy Scout Troop 260 at yesterday’s Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford, Adam Potter, 13, of Quechee, holds a DPMS semi-automatic rifle while browsing the event with his father, Jeff. The Potters have taken a hunter safety course together. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    After selling concessions with Boy Scout Troop 260 at yesterday’s Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford, Adam Potter, 13, of Quechee, holds a DPMS semi-automatic rifle while browsing the event with his father, Jeff. The Potters have taken a hunter safety course together. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chuck Eaton, of West Fairlee, hands a Model 1886 Krag Carbine back to Mike Blair, of Groton, Vt., while manning the Vermont Trappers Association table at the Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford. Blair and Eaton were admiring the sight design and original condition of the rifle, the same as those used in the Spanish American War by Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Chuck Eaton, of West Fairlee, hands a Model 1886 Krag Carbine back to Mike Blair, of Groton, Vt., while manning the Vermont Trappers Association table at the Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford. Blair and Eaton were admiring the sight design and original condition of the rifle, the same as those used in the Spanish American War by Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After selling concessions with Boy Scout Troop 260 at yesterday’s Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford, Adam Potter, 13, of Quechee, holds a DPMS semi-automatic rifle while browsing the event with his father, Jeff. The Potters have taken a hunter safety course together. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Chuck Eaton, of West Fairlee, hands a Model 1886 Krag Carbine back to Mike Blair, of Groton, Vt., while manning the Vermont Trappers Association table at the Green Mountain Gun and Knife Show in Hartford. Blair and Eaton were admiring the sight design and original condition of the rifle, the same as those used in the Spanish American War by Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

With the Upper Valley playing host to dueling gun shows this weekend, I spent yesterday morning making the rounds at the Connecticut Valley Auto Auction building on Route 14. The Hartford Gun Show has been around for decades. (I remember going nearly 20 years ago when it was at Hartford High School). Table after table of new and used firearms. A Parker 16-gauge double-barrel over here, a Smith and Wesson .38-caliber special over there, with boxes of ammo and 30-round mags everywhere in between. Outside, there was even a table, run by a Boy Scout troop, filled with slices of homemade coffeecake and other goodies. (Hey, a guy can’t live by Glocks alone.) Here are some sights and sounds that I picked up while trying not to drop coffeecake crumbs down the barrel of an SKS:

“Good day for a show, huh?”

One of the 60 or so people standing in line at 8:50 yesterday morning waiting to pay $8 each ($7 with coupon) to be among the first inside when the doors opened at 9.

“Any guns to check in?”

A broad shouldered twenty-something in an orange sweatshirt with “Security” blazed across the back. Along with looking to buy or window shop, some people come to sell and trade with dealers.

“We Buy and Sell Legal Machine Guns.”

A dealer’s sign that shows Vermont remains the kind of gun law(less) state that would have made Charlton Heston proud.

“Thirty-five years. It’s time for a new model.”

An attendee of the show who I hope was referring to his deer rifle.

“Just Because ... The Second Amendment isn’t about squirrel hunting.”

A small handwritten sign taped to a black assault rifle set on a tripod. Price: $3,200.

“Hey guys, how’s your NRA membership?”

Sean Byrne, a National Rifle Association recruiter from Boston, greeted people as they arrived from his table near the entrance. Yesterday, the NRA was offering discounts on all memberships. One year in the club usually goes for $35, but Bryne was offering a$10 discounts. The price of a lifetime membership, normally $1,000, had been slashed to $750. The NRA was also offering free penny candy, as well.

“I’m not shaking hands. I’ve been sick for a week.”

“Don’t handle any of my guns. I don’t want them to get sick either.”

Two longtime acquaintances discussing flu season over a .308-caliber Remington with a walnut stock.

“I always keep 5,000 rounds on hand.”

Customer to a dealer.

“It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”

Dealer to a customer on the joys of going to a shooting range with an semi-automatic rifle capable of firing 30 rounds in seconds.

“You can have it out of your backpack in no time. In 30 seconds, you can change calibers.”

A representative of Windsor Arms, a gunsmith shop on Route 5, explaining the advantages of the MGI Marck-15 Hydra modular weapon system. The rifle separates into three pieces that fit snugly in its own small suitcase. According to the manufacturer’s website, the easy-assemble rifle is in “use by our federal government and is helping to keep our country safe.”

“It’s two grand. Cash? There’s a little wiggle room.”

Windsor Arms representative on the sales price of Marck-15.

“Not Hispanic. White. Vermont.”

Steven Newlan, a gunsmith with Windsor Arms, on the phone with the federal agency in Washington, D.C., that conducts background checks for “over-the-counter” firearms transactions.

Federally licensed gun dealers, such as Newlan, are required to do the check, which is primarily designed to stop felons — who by law are not allowed to possess firearms — from making a purchase. In this case, Newlan received the OK to sell a 12-gauge shotgun to a customer, who was required to fill out a three-page federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form that asked, among other things, if he was a fugitive from justice or an “unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana.”

“All gun sales must take place in show.”

In Vermont, unlicensed dealers can sell guns at flea markets, yard sales or out of their car trunks. Bill Borchers, the Rockingham, Vt., promoter of the Hartford show, wanted to discourage unlicensed dealers who might be tempted to pedal their wares in the parking lot.

“After Sandy Hook, the press was saying Vermont was a shoot’em state. Obviously, nothing is foolproof, but I didn’t want people coming to our shows thinking they could walk out of here with a gun without a background check.”

Borchers explaining to me why in January he began requiring unlicensed dealers, such as collectors, who set up shop at his show to conduct a federal background check by phone before making a sale.

“Home security."

A vendor commenting on why a woman had purchased a short-barreled 20-gauge shotgun at the show.

“Give it to your fire department. They’ll put it up.”

The man handing out fliers for the “Vermonters for the Second Amendment Rally,” scheduled for this coming Saturday outside the Statehouse in Montpelier.

“I don’t think we’re going to get robbed.”

An adult working Troop 260’s concession stand outside the show.

After leaving Hartford, I dropped by the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon, where an outfit called DiPrete Promotions is also running a gun show this weekend.

But there wasn’t much there that interested me. I couldn’t find a single slice of coffeecake.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at Jim.Kenyon@valley.net