Lines wrapped around the exhibition hall of the Maryland State Fairgrounds by noon Friday. Hundreds chatted outside, waiting for the doors to open to Baltimore County's first gun show of year. The parking lots filled up as the afternoon wore on.
Amid growing talk of new gun-control measures in Washington and Annapolis, many at the Timonium show said they felt their rights are under siege. As the legislative session opened in Annapolis this week, Gov. Martin O'Malley predicted that the General Assembly would ban assault-type weapons this year. The White House is pushing for similar laws.
"There's definitely a sense of panic," said Dr. Leonard Kazanov, 44, of Woodbine, who attended the Timonium show with his wife, Julia. "There's a sense of some degree of paranoia. ... Go to Bass Pro Shops. The shelves are empty. It's as if a hurricane is coming and people are stocking up on toilet paper and fresh water."
Gun shop owners in the Baltimore area reported a spike in the sales of assault-type rifles and other semiautomatic weapons as the gun-control debate heated up in the days after the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The three-day gun show in Timonium, which opened at noon and ends Sunday, is the first of several planned this year at the fairgrounds.
"The more people talk in Washington, the longer these lines are going to get," said Kazanov, who enjoys target shooting. "For these tragedies, I think law-abiding citizens can get punished."
Tim Giles, 66, of Chambersburg, Pa., said he attends at least 10 gun shows a year, and "I have never seen a line this long."
Giles believes more restrictions on guns will not make Americans safer.
"A gun does not make a killer," he said.
He said people need to examine a culture that is full of graphic music and video games.
"What else would a society expect besides violence?" he said.
Organizers and police have canceled gun shows elsewhere. The police chief in Waterbury, Conn., revoked the permit for a show, and a group called Big Al's Gun Shows posted on its website that it was canceling shows this year in New York and Connecticut. A person who answered a phone number listed on the site declined to comment.
Jason Andrews, who runs Gunshowtrader.com, a website that lists events across the country, said the cancellations he's seen have been concentrated in Connecticut. He said the number of listings on the site is about the same as in other years, but he thinks more people are seeking out shows.
The number of people visiting his site "has increased dramatically," he said.
The promoter of the Timonium show, John Lamplugh, said gun shows and shops around the country have seen "10 times the normal business." His company, Appalachian Promotions, hosts gun and knife shows in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
"Public reasoning, from what I can gather, is they do not trust our government to fix the problem of psychotic persons from doing unimaginable acts of terror," Lamplugh wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun. "There has been discussion amongst the dealers and their customers that the government, both state and federal, have caused a panic amongst the citizens."
Lamplugh said Maryland's gun laws are among the nation's most restrictive.
Unlike in some states, a handgun cannot be purchased from a dealer at a Maryland gun show without a background check. Shotguns and rifles can be bought from some private sellers without a check.
Under state law, a person buying a regulated firearm — a handgun or assault-type weapon — is subject to a background check and a seven-day waiting period, according to state police spokesman Sgt. Marc Black.
"If you purchase a regulated firearm, that does not give you permission to have a handgun permit," he said.