It was a common observation among the gun enthusiasts like Ken who flocked to a Kansas City gun show on Saturday.
“You know who the world’s best gun salesman is, don’t you?” the Navy veteran of the Vietnam War asked as he carried around an old shotgun he had bought at the show.
It may have been the president’s recent executive actions requiring more gun sales to include background checks that drew people to the KCI Expo Center next to Kansas City International Airport, or maybe just a surge of post-holiday consumerism. But by every indication, the show was packing them in.
With parking lots at capacity, cars and trucks lined the shoulders and medians of nearby streets. Lines to buy tickets snaked out of the lobby and into the frigid outdoors. Inside, people were shoulder to shoulder, navigating aisles of booths stocked with all sorts of armaments, ammunition and firearm paraphernalia.
“This is a very large crowd. This is a crowd we haven’t seen since Sandy Hook,” said one gun dealer, referring to the mass murder in 2012 of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school. That incident led to calls for stronger gun control measures. The dealer, who asked that his name not be used, was doing brisk business in handguns on Saturday.
“There’s fear, there’s definitely fear,” he said. Fear not just of crime, he said, but of the government and of attempts at “trying to take our guns away.”
That was a concern of Curt Cotton of the Heart of America Friends of NRA, a fundraising organization for the National Rifle Association, which had a booth selling raffle tickets for pistols, rifles and shotguns.
“Ultimately, (Obama’s) agenda is to disarm every American citizen,” he said. “It’s the agenda of the socialists, the leftists and the left wing of the Democratic Party.”
The president has insisted otherwise.
Currently, licensed dealers must run background checks on those to whom they sell guns. But private sellers don’t face that same requirement. Obama wants to narrow the regulations so more firearms sold at gun shows, flea markets or online must require background checks.
Rather than require more sellers of firearms to submit buyers to background checks, the government should be improving the database used for background checks to include violent felons whom states have left out, Cotton said. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently sent states a letter emphasizing the importance of providing complete criminal histories.
Cotton was initiated into the world of firearms at an early age. He even carries on his cellphone a cherished black and white snapshot of himself as a little kid wearing a cowboy’s holster and a cap gun. Firearms scare people, he said, because they don’t understand them.
For now, Ken, the Vietnam veteran, plans to put his newly purchased shotgun in his safe, along with other firearms in his collection. He may decide to sell it later.
“Whether I buy or sell a gun is personal,” he said. “The law says I can sell guns (without background checks) as long as I’m not making a living off it.”
More likely, he’ll give the shotgun to his grandchildren.
“It’s short,” he said. “It’s for a child.”