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Bel Air's 55th Gun Show sees attendance spike to 4,000

Demand for firearms stays high in Harford County as people adjust to state assault rifle ban

With Maryland's tighter gun laws still in place, Harford County-area leaders said sellers and customers are still buying firearms as they continue to adjust to the new regulations set in 2013.

The 55th annual Bel Air Gun Show, held Friday through Sunday at the Bel Air Reckord Armory, brought out at least 4,000 people, far more than last year's roughly 2,000 attendees.

"The only reason that I think we have more people this year is, last year all the legislation was still sort of up in the air," Mike Horsmon, gun show chairman and state representative for Harford County's chapter of the Izaak Walton League, which runs the show, said Sunday.

"There wasn't a lot of really clear, written-down, 'this is what you have to do to be able to buy a handgun' [guidance] and so now we have a year go by, it seems that process is a lot more streamlined, so buyers can be a lot more comfortable," Horsmon said.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, assault rifles and magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds were banned in Maryland, and gun buyers have been required to submit to more stringent licensing and fingerprinting requirements.

The state was sued by groups and business owners who claimed a violation of their Second Amendment rights, but a federal judge upheld the law in August 2014.

"We have limitations on what can and can't be sold in the state," Horsmon said. "It seems as though people are adapting to that pretty well and making semi-automatic rifles that fit the legislation, and people are very interested in those, and they are coming through and still looking at that equipment and buying that equipment. I've seen some of that go out the door."

Horsmon called the turnout "very good" this year and "a little bit better than last year;" roughly half of the vendors were new.

"We have a number of knife dealers this year; most of them are custom-made knives; long guns, antique guns, plenty of handguns; there's a guy selling purses for conceal-carry; there's a lady doing some hand creams and stuff like that for people that might have dry hands," Horsmon said.

A steady stream of people came through the Armory on Sunday afternoon, the show's last day.

"I think they are more comfortable now that the law has changed and ready to resume normalness," Dave Mroz, owner of Dundalk's Blue Fins, said. His business has been at the show for three years.

Visitors to the gun show have been especially interested in older-style military rifles, he said.

The show, which is the Izaak Walton League's major fundraiser, "is for a good cause," Mroz added. "The people running it are awesome."

Marvin Herring, a Blue Fins employee, agreed that people are coming in with more specific firearms in mind.

"The panic buying is really over," Herring said, referring to a rush on assault rifles during the controversy over the state legislation.

He also said people are optimistic after so many Republican wins in Maryland during the midterm elections, in particular the victory by Gov. Larry Hogan.

"People are really more confident now that they have a Republican governor and they feel that their Second Amendment rights are more protected now," Herring said. "A lot of rights taken away under [the administration of former governor Martin] O'Malley will be restored."

The staff of Blue Fins also enjoyed a trophy they received for having the best handgun display. Horsmon said the show's organizers give out four awards, for best long gun display, best overall display, best pistol display and a special display, which Horsmon said usually means one not including guns.

Jeff Schulte, of Bel Air, was among the many who came to check out rifles on Sunday. His 10-year-old son, Tyler, tried out a rifle of his own.

"He likes [the video game] 'Call of Duty,' so he wanted to see the real thing," Jeff Schulte explained.

Frank Gostomski, of Bel Air, said he comes to the show every year and was looking for "old, cheap shotguns."

"It's a great show," he said, adding that the show was "friendly" and had "a lot of stuff."

"It's quiet and it's friendly," Gostomski said. "I go to the big gun show in Timonium, and usually it's a disappointment because it doesn't have as good a buy as here."

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