As we’ve slowly moved out of the COVID-19 lockdowns imposed on broad swaths of the economy, we’re starting to see gun shows return to civic centers and fairgrounds around the country. This is good news for would-be gun owners who may have found a limited selection at their local gun stores in recent months, but it also provides the Trump campaign and its supporters with an opportunity to engage in voter outreach that could be critical in several swing states.
According to Jason Andrews, the CEO of Gun Show Trader, almost 75% of gun shows were called off between February and August, and between March and May of this year it was actually closer to 95% of all shows. As Forbes reported on Monday, however, gun shows are back in a big way, with 315 shows scheduled around the country this month.
Alan Hill, a Vietnam veteran and retired police officer who manages the Hill Country Veterans Center in Kerrville, Texas, hosted a gun show last weekend in the former armory. It was his fourth gun show this year, and there was a waiting list of vendors.
“I’ve got a sign out there that masks are recommended, but we do not force people to wear them indoors,” said Hill. “Sixty-five to 75% percent of my vendors refused to wear them. Customers coming in say ‘we’re glad you don’t force us to wear them because we refuse to wear them,’ and I respect their thoughts.”
He also said there is no social distancing because “we wouldn’t be able to do it; we couldn’t fit the tables in there.”
He said this year’s pre-pandemic show was attended by 450 people, while his July show had 700 attendees and his August show had 675. (Attendance for the most recent show was not yet available.) With the approach of Election Day on Nov. 3, Hill said the purchases seem more politically motivated, driven by the gun control proposal of the Democratic contenders for the White House: former Vice President Joseph Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
“There are people who are afraid that if Trump does not get reelected than the Biden administration will follow Bloomberg and try to take their guns away from them,” he said, referring to the billionaire gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City.