Hundreds look, buy at gun show

February 07, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

The old man in the red flannel shirt and John Deere cap picked up the Winchester shotgun and aimed at an imaginary squirrel.

"I had one of these when I was a boy. This one is for my grandson's birthday," he said, sliding the strap over his shoulder. "It's a nice, well-made shotgun. It's good for shooting ducks and geese and squirrels and rabbits."

Like most buyers at the gun show yesterday at the American Legion in Bel Air, he declined to give his name. Hugging the model 50 shotgun against his body with the barrel pointed straight down, he also declined, politely but firmly, to say exactly what he paid for the 45-year-old shotgun. "It cost me a couple hundred dollars," he said.

About 1,500 people, mostly men, are expected to attend the show, which runs through 5 p.m. today at the American Legion Post 39 building at 501 N. Hickory Ave. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students.

"This has become a Harford County tradition. We've had this show the first weekend of February every year now for 33 years," said Jim Lagan, the event's chairman.

The gun show, which boasts 80 rented tables and about 60 dealers, is a fund-raiser for the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America Inc. The group pays for conservation projects to protect and restore streams, forests and wetlands.

Inside a room with two-story, dark-paneled walls, gun enthusiasts caressed shotguns, rifles and handguns. Some dealers sold books or antique weapons.

Deborah A. Sprouse, who said she has written books on Revolutionary and Civil War artifacts, sold pieces of history. Civil War bullets, jumbled in a can, went for $1.50 each. Scarcer items, such as Civil War buttons or buckles, rested on cotton inside small glass boxes.

Mrs. Sprouse also had more recent history for sale: $10 would buy an Iraqi army field pack. She said it had been brought back by a U.S. soldier. "I hope this is the last time American forces go into armed combat," she said.

Mrs. Sprouse said memorabilia from the Persian Gulf war was fairly inexpensive but that could change because captured Iraqi items were scarce. "The soldiers didn't bring very much back because they were told they had to disinfect everything first. Not many wanted to bother with that," she said.

Shoppers stood three-deep around Ron Brown's table, covered with rifles, shotguns and handguns.

"What we've seen recently is husband and wives shopping together for handguns, like they'd shop for a piece of furniture. People are scared to death," said Mr. Brown, a firearms instructor for the Baltimore County Police Department and a part-time gun dealer.

Mr. Brown said most buyers were interested in "high-capacity, 9 mm guns that would fire anywhere from 15 to 20 rounds as quick as you can squeeze the trigger." Such a gun would run from $200 to $750, he said.

Folks who wanted to buy a gun had to fill out an application form to be sent to state police.

"I'll call you in seven days and tell you if you've been approved, in which case you can come pick up the gun," Mr. Brown told a customer. "If someone is not approved, I wouldn't sell them one of these for $10,000. I have too many brother officers on the street."

Zack Miller, a Bel Air police officer, had a few things to sell but came mostly to display his collection of World War II German memorabilia.

In a glass case, a silver swastika decorated the wooden handle of a long, narrow knife. The German dagger, with its leather case, went for $310.

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