Is Coronavirus Impacting Gun Show Attendance?

A recent gun show in rural New Mexico saw steep declines in attendance and vendors compared to years past, and organizers are blaming the state’s new universal background check law for the drop, though fears of the coronavirus may also have played at least a small role as well.

The Silver City Daily Press reports dozens of vendors stayed away from the High Desert Gun Show, held over the weekend in Grant County, New Mexico, just as organizers had predicted last year.

“We usually run between 110 to 135 vendor tables, but thanks to our communist regime, we have to do background checks on every single purchase,” said show organizer Jerry Louck. “Sellers have backed out, and buyers also. And they’re going to buy it, they’re just not doing it here.

“We’re way down from last year, by about 28 vendors,” Louck continued. “That equals about 65 tables in this year’s show.”

The funds raised by vendor fees of $40 per table, along with the $5 admission price to the show, go toward “Grant County shooting sports with 4-H,” according to Louck. The gun club generally raises around $8,000 each year, but is anticipating lower numbers as a result of the show’s decline in vendors.

“We buy targets, ammunition and donate money towards gas and lodging for trips” to competitions, Louck said, adding that the Silver Shooters youth marksmanship team will have to rely more heavily on the donations it receives from organizations like the Elks Lodge and the Masons, who typically donate between $300 and $500 each year. “The gun show is our main moneymaker. Revenue is down.”

While the organizer of the gun show is pointing to the state’s new background check law as the primary reason for the decline, others think there are other factors at work. Sue Castillo works with the Grant County 4-H shooting sports team, and says she’s concerned that the show isn’t attracting younger gun owners.

“Our show is mostly [seniors] who are vendors. They’re all getting older,” Castillo said. “There’s not a lot of young people stepping up to take their place.”

As far as the new requirement to complete a background check on every firearm purchased at the show, Castillo said it hasn’t really changed anything.

“People are scared, and there are misconceptions about what it will be like to buy firearms here — but it’s not that different than before. We’ve always had an FFL” — a person with a federal firearms license to conduct a federal instant background check.

“It takes five to 10 minutes,” Castillo said. “Unless something comes up, and then there’s a three-day waiting period. But most people can wait for that.”

Did anyone stay away from the gun show over concerns about the coronavirus? The local paper doesn’t say, but given the fact that the show is skewing older and the virus seems to be hitting the elderly much harder than it’s impacting younger individuals, I wouldn’t be surprised if some potential attendees decided to stay home instead.

This will be a much bigger problem for gun shows in the weeks ahead. Santa Clara County, California, for instance, has already announced a ban on mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people, and other restrictions on large events are likely to be fairly widespread over the next couple of months. In Europe, the IWA Outdoor Classics show, which is the closest thing to SHOT Show on the European continent, postponed the massive four day event until later this year over fears of the coronavirus.

As for the next big gathering of gun owners here in the United States, the NRA’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for April 16-19 in Nashville, Tennessee. So far there’ve been no announcements on any delays or cancellations, and hopefully the meeting will be able to take place as planned, but Nashville has seen several smaller events cancelled in recent weeks and Ryman Hospitalities, based in Nashville, says they’ve already seen $40-million in cancelled events at their properties, which includes the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in the city.