Cramped aisles and steady transactions marked the Kane County Sportsman's Show Sunday with sales of ammunition and semiautomatic firearms topping the list.
Don Moran, president of the Illinois State Rifle Association, who was at the show, noted how little ammunition was left even at 11 a.m. -- a few hours before the event wrapped up. The gun show ran from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles. When Moran left, he stopped by the Gander Mountain store in Geneva and found the same empty shelves.
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Moran said gun sales on any type of semiautomatic firearm are up, whether it's a handgun or a rifle, and the corresponding ammunition is selling quickly as well.
"People are just afraid that they're going to get banned," Moran said. "Maybe they've been thinking about buying one, and they've been putting it off. What's going on in the state and nationally -- they're scared they won't be able to buy it if they wait."
As the nation reels from the mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults Dec. 14, gun control advocates are pushing for action from the president and Congress. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to submit recommendations for reducing gun violence to President Barack Obama by Tuesday.
The Illinois State Rifle Association lobbies in Springfield and works with the National Rifle Association to mold federal legislation. Moran said the political debate is just a distraction that pulls attention from issues like poverty, dropout rates from public schools and Illinois' pension crisis.
"It takes the eye of the public off what the real problem is," Moran said.
The Kane County Sportsman's Show, which will be held monthly through May, gave people a chance to buy, sell and trade firearms and related items. There were handguns, rifles, shotguns, antique muzzle loaders and knives alongside hunting gear, survival equipment and smaller items like bullet refrigerator magnets.
Illinois doesn't have the "gun show loophole" that allows people to purchase guns from shows without background checks. Anyone who wanted to buy a handgun Sunday had to fill out paperwork for the background check and wait 72 hours before making the final purchase. The waiting period for rifles and shotguns is 24 hours, according to state law.
Moran said the law probably doesn't make much of a difference for gun sales in Illinois, but it does make vendors more comfortable selling.
In 2012, organizers of the Kane County event hosted the gun show in October and December. This year they have dates scheduled in January, February, March, April and May in addition to the fall and winter events.
Kathy Carlson, the main organizer, would not discuss the event Sunday and said her policy is not to talk to the news media and to ask reporters to leave the show.
The next Kane County Sportsman's Show will be from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at the fairgrounds.