Just after daylight Saturday, Larry Steverson already knew his gun show in Augusta was destined for the record books.
“See that line out there? It’s been totally insane,” he said. “It’s been like that since before 8 a.m., and we don’t even open doors till 9.”
The CEO of GunRunner Shows said he holds about 50 events a year across Georgia and South Carolina and has watched attendance – and prices – skyrocket since President Obama announced a push for new gun control laws.
Thousands packed the Augusta Exchange Club Fairgrounds exhibit hall, with many waiting in line 45 minutes to an hour just to reach the front door.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dwayne Reigle, an avid hunter and outdoorsman from Harlem.
Like many visitors at the two-day event, he was interested in modern sporting arms or "assault rifles" that could be banned or become more strictly regulated.
“I came out today looking for an AR .223,” he said. “I found them, too, but I’m not going to pay what they’re asking.”
Many of the semi-automatic rifles have increased in price because of demand. At one table, rifles that retailed for $700 to $1,000 just six weeks ago were priced at $1,999.99.
“They must like their guns more than I do,” Reigle said. “That’s too much.
Forty minutes later, however, three of the four rifles laid out on a table were gone.
Ed Moreaux, a vendor who owns the Battle Shop in Dawsonville, Ga., enjoyed the big crowds that include lots of gun show newcomers.
“There’s probably more looking at my table than buying,” he said, “but you have to look before you buy.”
Moreaux’s display of artwork made from rifle cartridges and vintage military firearms drew plenty of interest.
His centerpiece was a World War II Browning machine gun that could have seen battle in Europe or the Pacific Theater. The weapon was partially dismantled to render it inoperable, but for $8,000, a collector could take it home intact.
“This particular one was made by General Motors,” Moreaux said, noting that many U.S. companies churned out military items during the war. “General Motors made a lot of guns.”
Steverson was enjoying the surge in the popularity of gun shows.
“This one is, by far, the biggest one ever here in Augusta,” he said.
Several vendors were newcomers or were returning after a long absence.
“There are two or three people here who haven’t set up at a show in 20 years,” Steverson said.
The show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.