Crowds at Pittsburgh gun show expected to top attendance record

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Eager to buy controversial firearms before anticipated regulation changes, fearful that ownership will be banned or just looking for a good deal before prices soar even higher, gun collectors waited in half-hour lines today at the big gun show at the Pittsburgh Mills Expo Mart in Tarentum.

Customers found that prices for some firearms, already high since the presidential election, had skyrocketed in the national debate about gun ownership since the Connecticut school shooting in December.

Attendance at the Pennsylvania Gun Collectors Association's weekend event was expected to top the two-day record of 5,400 (plus an uncounted number of group members) set four years ago at Westmoreland Mall. Group president Phil Dacey said this weekend's crowd will easily surpass 2012's record crowd of about 3,300.

"This will beat that," he said, at his booth where World War II memorabilia is vended. "It was crazy this morning."

Potential customers and collectors pricing guns for later purchase crowded the aisles as dozens of federally licensed dealers explained the particulars of hunting sporting arms, black powder flintlocks and muzzleloaders and assault-style weapons that have doubled in price since November.

"I bought an AR-15 on Black Friday for about $700," said Dave Guenther of Shaler. "Two weeks later the same gun was going for $1,700. Ammunition, too. It's .223 caliber, they're going for $1 a piece."

At the gun show, a used Bushmaster AR-15 was listed at $2,150. The AR military style semi-automatics, controversial because of their use by people in recent tragedies, were a bargain compared with higher caliber weapons. A Black Rain Ordnance Fallout 5.56 mm semi-auto was selling for $3,955.

Bill Warner, a gun collector from Slippery Rock, said many gun show customers go to browse for comparative prices, not to buy.

"This is the best place to shop for prices, the best place to get a look at all the gun dealers in the area," he said. "They'll have specials, but they can't bring enough stuff. Collectors will see who has the best deal and go to the shop later."

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John Hayes: 412-263-1991, First Published January 19, 2013 8:00 PM


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