ANNAPOLIS | A weekend gun show at the Annapolis National Guard Armory saw a steady stream of longtime owners and potential first-time buyers eager to snap up pistols, rifles, scopes and bullets — some of which will be prohibited when new laws take effect next month.
Maryland's sweeping gun control laws are set to be enforced on Oct. 1, and opinionated dealers and customers were making the most of the waning time.
Longtime gun dealer David Greer, 69, of Crownsville, Md., said in the past few months he'd seen larger crowds at gun shows as buyers try to beat the cutoff.
"A lot of people are realizing it'll be much more difficult and much more intrusive," he said. "They're trying to get in under the wire."
Silver Spring resident William Gains, 65, said the laws were just making law-abiding people pay "for what other people are doing bad."
Jerry Vinson, a 64-year-old Lansdowne, Md., resident who came to the show to purchase reloading equipment had a similar view.
"How many criminals are going to show up and buy a gun and register their real name," he asked. "People who are law-abiding citizens are the ones getting ripped off."
The Firearm Safety Act 2013 was passed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in April. Proposed by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in January after the mass shooting a month earlier at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the legislative package adds 45 guns to a list of banned assault weapons, limits handgun magazines to 10 rounds, and requires gun buyers to submit their fingerprints and obtain a handgun qualification license.
The law grandfathers in people who own or purchase their firearms before Oct. 1.
Casey Barber, 27, of Anne Arundel County, said she could "see both sides of the issue" but gun control wasn't just about limiting magazine rounds.
"I think everybody needs to start pushing gun safety and gun responsibility," she said, as her friend "Harry" chimed in that he didn't mind requiring fingerprints for gun buyers but had spent the last few months stocking up on ammunition that was in short supply.
"Harry" was one of many shoppers at Sunday's show unwilling to talk on the record about their views on firearms and the pending legislation, though many of them said they were uncertain how smooth the transition would be.
Maryland State Police say an application process that complies with the new laws has been developed and is scheduled to be implemented Oct. 1.
State Police say that through Aug. 31 they had received 85,141 gun-purchase applications this year — up more than 20 percent from all of last year — and officials have processed 46,942 of this year's applications. He said officials have doubled staffing numbers to speed up the processing of applications.
Melvin Hudgins, 65, of Silver Spring, said he thought new laws were going to make gun buyers wait much longer for their purchases, but he wasn't going to be too affected by the weapon prohibitions.
"I don't see why anyone wants to have assault weapons anyway," he said.
Looking around the crowded armory, Neil Kravitz, a spokesman for Appalachian Promotions, which sponsors the show, and vendor of Nsk Sales Co., said the new laws won't just affect today's buyers but future generations.
"You see very few young and up and coming people," he said. "You see people who've bought guns, you see older people. This is not about what everybody thinks it is. This is a plan to disarm America."
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