Visitors can check out firearms, knives and outdoor gear, and support local Izaak Walton League of America conservation and scholarship programs at the same time, during the three-day, 58th annual Bel Air Gun Show starting Friday at the Bel Air Armory.
The show, which typically draws hundreds of people each day, runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s a good time and there’s always new vendors, and you never know what you’re going to find,” Mike Horsmon, president of the local Izaak Walton League chapter and ch-chair of the gun show, said.
Admission is $10 per person, although children under 14 are free; proceeds benefit the Izaak Walton League, according to Horsmon.
“It’s not for profit at all,” he said. “A lot of the money goes to our scholarship program.”
The Harford County chapter gives out five $1,000 scholarships to local high school students each year. The recipients can attend any college or university, but their area of study must be in the environmental science field, Horsmon said.
Any additional funds support the League’s local initiatives, such as managing its 350-acre Bosley Conservancy property along the Bush River in Edgewood, maintaining more than 70 wood duck nesting boxes, annual hunter safety courses and a partnership with the Harford County-run Anita C. Leight Estuary Center in Abingdon, according to Horsmon.
The local Izaak Walton League chapter has also started monitoring the water quality in several local streams and sharing the data with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“We’re trying to find a mechanism to make [the data] available to the public in a way that makes sense,” Horsmon said.
Horsmon said gun show visitors can see antique and modern-day firearms, including handguns and long guns such as rifles and shotguns. He said there should be some “good deals” on firearms, and there are usually gun show specials.
He said the show is “a great place” for collectors seeking hard-to-find antiques.
“It’s also a good place for anyone looking to see the variety of firearms that are available if they don’t know what they want,” Horsmon said.
People can talk with vendors to obtain “up-to-date, factual information” about regulations regarding firearm purchases. A series of strict gun laws was approved in Maryland in 2013, and gun control advocates in the state General Assembly have introduced several new proposed measures during this legislative session.
During the Bel Air show, vendors can start the process, on-site, of filing out paperwork and checking fingerprints for the background check required to purchase a handgun in Maryland, according to Horsmon. A handgun qualification license, which is issued by the Maryland State Police, is required to purchase, rent or receive a handgun in Maryland as of Oct. 1, 2013, according to an MSP web page on the license.
A background check is required to obtain the HQL, and applicants must show they have completed a firearm safety course within three years before they sought a license, according to the page.
“No one can walk out of [the show] with a handgun in their hand, no matter what,” Horsmon said.