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Will Elliott’s Outdoors: Emphasis is on security, safety at gun show

When the term “gun show” is heard, some connect it to loopholes in laws restricting the sale of firearms.

The word “loopholes” can be comedic. W.C. Fields, while hospitalized and near death, was seen thumbing through a Bible. A friend thought this was unusual since Fields had not led a very religious life. When asked about his Bible reading, Fields’ replied: “Looking for loopholes.”

Clearly, “loopholes” in regards to firearms sales refer to finding ways to get around laws aimed at stopping the illegal sale of weapons for possible criminal use. A visit to any gun show open to the public would calm those concerns. That was the practice seen and experienced during a Feb. 7, Super Bowl-day visit to the gun show at Alexander Fireman’s Rec Hall.

For gun fanciers, this kind of show is a Super Bowl for odd, rare, new and used guns and gear not easily found elsewhere.

Guns and ammunition can no longer be purchased online. But the biggest draw of shows such as the one at Alexander is the good people who exhibit and sell goods.

“The show is kind of a country or hometown show,” said Niagara Frontier Gun Shows coordinator Bruce Johnston.

Safety is a primary concern. Firearms must be unloaded before, during and when leaving the hall. A big arrow-indicator sign near the door reads: “Background (NICS) Check Here.” NICS stands for National Instant Criminal Background Check.” Anyone purchasing a long gun or ammo must have a NICS check done before any sale of goods is completed at this show. A security person at the door then checks the goods and NICS checks confirmation before any firearms-related goods leave the building.

Times and terms have changed over the years for gun owners and shooters such as Bruce Johnston.

“I recall coming to this show with my dad 40 years ago. We could go out back and shoot .22s all day,” Johnston said of the Alexander show.

Buyers, if they liked, could take a rifle, shotgun or pistol behind the hall, fire a few rounds and see if the shooting piece was to their liking.

All that kind of activity is now a smile-inducing recollection. Gun safety is essential and a country-like aura remains. Good people come together to share information and stories along with the sale of goods. This gathering of gun fanciers is much akin to the folks one might encounter about cars at a car show, about homes at a home show, or about gardening at a garden show.

At a gun show, however, exhibitors tend not to share their names because of the anti-gun sentiment, but all share a love for their involvements and have some interesting takes on politics.

Chief among comments from sellers of guns, and even knives, was that each politician’s gun-control pronouncement and legislative passage has increased sales of new and used guns and shooting accessories.

The crowd at Alexander showed little concern about politics and an avid interest in the variety of guns on display and for sale. Everything from a double-barreled flintlock rifle to the most modern of pistol and rifle models could be viewed and considered.

The beauty of these kinds of shows is that each vendor willingly shared information about a firearm’s background and functions. Even sellers of knives and accessory goods would offer interesting details about where an item came from, how it got where it is and what use it might have in the future, information that could not be learned at a big-box store or online.

Johnston sets up these NFG shows at several sites with the NICS checks.

“It’s the Hamburg show that has become the pistol show in recent years,” he said. The Hamburg show, on the Erie County Fairgrounds April 30 and May 1, features 300 exhibitor tables; Erie County Pistol Permit Clerk Chris Jacobs is on site or provides office personnel to register pistols along with the NICS checks for long arms prior to all firearms sales.

Niagara Frontier Gun Shows have a modest $5 admission fee and provide free parking. For exhibitor information and future show site details, visit