Anyone driving past the Orange County Fairgrounds last weekend was presented with an uncommon dilemma: guitars or guns?
Most chose guns, as the SoCal World Guitar Show’s attendance paled in comparison to the huge draw at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show.
Long lines and occasional rain were not enough to keep over 20,000 gun enthusiasts away from the gun show, where the merchant’s offerings included handguns, rifles, shotguns, ammunition, knives, emergency food supply, paramilitary gear, first aid kits, jewelry and anything else one might need to survive an apocalypse — or a new wave of gun control measures.
The gun show, which typically draws over 10,000 mostly-male attendees, saw long lines forming early on both Saturday and Sunday.
Mark from Murrietta was one of several dozen people in line by 7 a.m. He said he was drawn to the show as a collector. He enjoys collecting guns as a hobby, he said, and he didn’t “get the difference between guns and guitars.”
In fact, the lines were so long that already the huge turnout was probably depressed by the lengthy wait.
Michelle from Orange — who also arrived at 7 a.m. on Saturday, about five hours after the earliest attendees started to form a line — said, “There’s just no way we could have gotten in at that point, so we came back today.”
She returned on Sunday just before 5 a.m. to claim a choice spot in line, where she was guaranteed entrance.
“Totally worth it,” she said.
So why the strong, almost desperate, interest in the gun show?
Last Thursday, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced legislation that would ban the sale and manufacture of over 150 types of semiautomatic weapons, some of which were available for sale this weekend.
Further, the ban would also include ammunition magazines that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds. (Magazines holding over 10 rounds were banned in California over a decade ago.)
The federal legislation, virtually guaranteed to fail in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, is even unlikely to muster a majority of votes in the Senate, where vulnerable Democrats in red states fear electoral punishment for a gun control vote.
But it’s not the federal legislation that gun owners are concerned about; rather, they’re worried about what the solidly Democratic California legislature will pass.
Earlier this week, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) announced legislation that would require a background check to purchase ammunition. Local municipalities and counties throughout California have also announced plans for new control measures.
But the interest in the gun show, despite the preponderance of National Rifle Association (NRA) gear, stemmed from more than just fear of new gun control measures.
“We’re here to stock up [on ammunition],” Mark said.
After over a decade of war, firearm ammunition is in scarce supply.
Bob Templeton, owner of Crossroads of the West, estimated that half of the show’s attendees were there just for ammunition. In fact, ammunition vendors from Northern California ventured to Orange County to help meet demand, according to the Los Angeles Times.
There was also a “free speech area” for protestors which went unused this year, as it has in previous ones.
Last week, five people were injured in one day from three separate incidents of accidental discharges at different gun shows throughout the country. At the time that the New University attended, the Crossroads of the West in Orange County went on without incident.
Still, four Orange County deputies were on patrol throughout the duration of the show. The extra deputies were called in because of increased attendance and not fear of a shooting, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Some attendees just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
Looking out at TV crews set up outside of the show, Mark asked, “Why aren’t there [reporters] at the guitar show?”
Shortly after, he requested that his last name not be used. He said, laughing, that he’s not sure if he would have given it to a reporter at the guitar show.