More than a few patrons at the East Albany Lions Club Gun Show were seen in the Linn County Fair & Expo Center parking lot Saturday with newly purchased firearms, but merchants say sales have lagged since Donald Trump took office.
"When they perceive a threat to their Second Amendment right, they buy more guns," said Steve Bright, a gun safety instructor and co-owner of Blackstone Gun Safety in Beaverton. He and his wife, Denise, also an instructor, had a booth at the event.
Bright said the sales lag due to Second Amendment security, ironically, may not be a good side effect of the industry, but is good for the bigger picture.
"When people don't have to be on the defensive about their rights, they can focus on more important issues," he said.
Bright had ample company at the show. The hall was filled with browsers and merchants. Everyone was there to talk guns, look at vintage and new guns, and purchase guns. Importantly, safety was the rule of the day, and both patrons and exhibitors alike took the hobby — and the responsibility of gun ownership — seriously.
"Getting the permit means nothing," said Bright, talking about concealed-carry permits. "You need to get the training. As soon as a round leaves your gun, its your responsibility."
The weapons on display present a living museum to firearms history. Glenn Rogers, up from the Lane County town of Noti, was showing his collection of M1 Garands, the standard rifle for American soldiers during World War II. Anyone with an elementary sense of history will understand the significance of holding one of these weapons.
Others showed tables filled with muzzle loaders, post-Civil War revolvers and other vintage firearms that seem more works of art than weapon. That's where most of the fascination lies: Guns represent applied science, and there is certainly a level of art that accompanies the vintage models. This part of the gun world can get lost in favor of the newsmaking AR-15, the civilian counterpart to the military M4, both iterations of the Vietnam-era M16. That weapon, Bright agreed, is associated with the negative perception of gun owners.
Show attendees agreed that people, not guns, perpetrate the violent acts seen in the news. But Bright allowed that more education and a cultural shift is necessary to reverse the trend of gun violence.
"America is the gun market to the world," he said. "But it's a matter of being educated about safety, and about consequences."
Bright also discussed the fun part of shooting, of learning to effectively hit a target with a vintage weapon, and offered an answer to those who point to the proliferation of guns as the source of the violence.
"There are millions of us with trillions of rounds in the country," he said. "If we were the problem, you'd know it," he said.
Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley also remarked on the nature of gun violence back in November. Speaking on the fact the man who attempted a mass shooting at a Northern California school had been denied gun ownership and had a protection order against him, Riley said, "If someone is bent on causing violence, they will find the means no matter what.
"It's not a gun problem," he added. "It's a heart problem."
The East Albany Lions Club Gun show continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The $6 entry fee ($5 for NRA members), as well as some sales proceeds, benefit local Lions Club initiatives.