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New gun show in W.Va. has good turnout on first day

March 02, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — With the national debate over stricter gun control laws spreading into various states, Martinsburg firearms dealer and gun activist Val Forgett believes new legislation is not going to increase safety for U.S. citizens.

“The issue to me is enforcement of existing laws,” Forgett said, referring to comments made by Vice President Joe Biden recently calling for stricter regulations on guns. “When you have 9,000 laws, I don’t see how a 9,001st is going to help.”

Enlisting the help of veteran promoter Frank Krasner of Silverado Gun Shows, Forgett is hosting a gun show this weekend at his Cannon Hill Industrial Park warehouse facility at 54 Dupont Road, north of Martinsburg just off U.S. 11.

The first-ever show, which continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., features about 35 vendors, including numerous local firearms dealers with handguns, long guns and military-style assault rifles, on 120 tables, said Krasner, who estimated Saturday’s attendance to be between 1,000 and 1,500.

Admission is $8, with children younger than 12 admitted free with a paying adult.

Forgett, owner of Gibbs Rifle, Navy Arms and Old Western Scrounger Ammo, said the show came together in just five weeks and is in response to the recent cancellations of other gun and outdoors shows in the area, such as the Eastern Sports and Outdoor show in Harrisburg, Pa., one of the largest on the East Coast.

In addition to the vendors, the local show also features a National Firearms Museum display of weapons that belonged to President Theodore Roosevelt as well as displays of the latest productions from Israel Weapon Industries, maker of the Uzi and new Tavor rifle, and historic Gatling gun cannons produced by U.S. Armament.

“Collectively, we wanted to give a good experience to the person who would come through the door, where they can get a good deal on guns, get a good deal on ammo, buy a bag of beef jerky for their kids and also see what is, in essence, $1 million worth of collectible guns that they wouldn’t otherwise see,” Forgett said.

Harry Lewis, owner of Skeeter’s Firearms in Smithsburg, is a vendor at the show. He said the attendance was great for the first day and expects more of the same Sunday.

“For the first show here ... it’s great,” he said. “Frank (Krasner) usually does a bang-up job with advertising, and with such short notice, I thought it was a good turnout so far.”

Lewis said recent sales in his shop have been “off the charts” as a bill passed the Maryland Senate that would impose stricter laws on licensing regulations for gun buyers. The bill, pushed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, still would need to be passed by the House of Delegates.

“It doesn’t discourage me as long as they don’t take our rights from us to own them. That’s the biggest thing,” Lewis said. “We’re still U.S. citizens, so we should have the right to own them.”

The first day of the show was attended by people of all ages, including Hedgesville, W.Va., resident Mark Davis and his 14-year-old son, Cole.

Davis, a retired correctional officer who admitted he’s more into fishing these days, said he attended the show Saturday more as a treat for his son, who is interested in the military-style firearms.

“He knows more about guns than I do,” he said. “He’s schooling me today.”

Being raised around guns, Davis said he isn’t frightened by military-style assault weapons, which have garnered national attention, and he’s taught his son proper procedures to safely handle firearms.

“In the hands of the right person, guns are safe,” Davis said. “The key is keeping them out of the hands of the fools.”

Forgett said the popularity and sales of his assault weapons and ammunition magazines has skyrocketed since politicians ramped up gun control debates after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Since the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, public fear of firearms is a driving force behind lawmakers’ anti-gun efforts, Forgett said, but also in his increased gun and ammo sales.

“It’s running on fear right now,” Forgett said.

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If you go ...

What: Gun show
When: Today, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Cannon Hill Industrial Park, 54 Dupont Road, north of Martinsburg, W.Va., just off U.S. 11
Admission: $8; children younger than 12 admitted free with a paying adult

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