Talk of new firearms restrictions boosts gun show attendance

Published: Mar. 16, 2013 at 8:28 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 16, 2013 at 11:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii State "Great Guns" Show has been held twice a year for the past 36 years. Organizers are anticipating that this weekend's show will set a new attendance record.

According to the Hawaii Historic Arms Association, which runs the show, the event draws about 3,000 people. This year. the association is expecting attendance near 4,500.

"We're looking at setting an attendance record here this year because of the fact that guns are so hard to get nowadays, and all the restrictions that the government wants to put on firearms," said association president Phil Rapoza.

Rapoza said the people want to get what they can before any new restrictions go into place.

While there are weapons for sale at the gun show, the association said it follows all of Hawaii's strict gun laws. For example, a buyer with a permit can purchase a shotgun or rifle at the show and take it home. "But if you ant to purchase a pistol, you actually have to find the pistol you want, get the information from the owner, then you'll have to go through a two-week process at the police station to get a permit to acquire that gun," said Rapoza.

Gun owners said talk of new restrictions has also caused a shortage. "Ammunition has been in short supply. Many different types of firearms are in short supply. So there's a lot of people coming here in the hopes of securing either ammunition or firearms that they haven't been able to get in the commercial market," said Bill Richter, a firearms safety instructor and president of Life In Firearms Education Hawaii.

One of the big draws at the show was a vendor selling ammunition, which drew a long line of customers.

"We are here in search of 223 (rifle) ammo and 22 long rifle," said Serafin Meno, who was standing in line. "It's hard to come by now days."

"To buy ammo on the outside, it's way expensive, way overpriced, and you know, more regulations," said gun owner Steve Koopman.

Even with the talk of more gun restrictions in the wake of the school shooting in Newton, Conn. last December, only one firearms bill is still alive in the Hawaii legislature. The bill would require county police departments to fingerprint and photograph individuals registering firearms brought in from out of state, if those individuals don't already have prints or photos already on file. The measure is supported by the Hawaii Rifle Association.

Other bills, including one that would have required gun owners to show their registration to buy ammunition, were never heard or were voted down in committee. Even so, many of those who own firearms aren't taking any chances.

"We have tons of law-abiding citizens here who are interested in being safe and law-abiding gun owners, and they just want to exercise their constitutional rights," said Richter.

"They shouldn't take the second amendment, the right to bear arms, from law-abiding people like us who pay our taxes. We should have the right to protect ourselves, just like anybody else," said John Teehera.

"Customers like me, we want to go out and do some recreational shooting," said Meno. "We would like to have that opportunity."

The gun show continues Sunday at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

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