BRATTLEBORO -- Business was brisk at the Vermont Gun Show, which was held this past weekend at The Quality Inn on Putney Road.
The show brought together dealers from across Vermont, and at the busiest time Saturday there was a 30 minute wait to get in.
The mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last year brought the issue of guns back to the forefront of American politics and there continues to be passionate cries from both sides of the gun control issue.
But the Dec. 14 massacre which left 26 children and staff members dead, along with the shooter and his mother, also caused a sharp rise in gun and ammunition sales, and at The Quality Inn this weekend dealers talked about the challenge they are facing in keeping up.
"I kind of wish everyone would just take a deep breath and slow down," said Gary Griswold, owner of Gateway Sports, a gun and outdoors store in Wells River. "People are paying way too much for some of this stuff. And if they just wait until this blows over they'll end up spending a lot less money."
Within days of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun sales took off, and Griswold said they are not close to slowing down.
It is hard to say exactly what happened, but Griswold thinks gun enthusiasts who are worried about new gun laws are buying up weapons and ammunition.
Manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with the demand and so the cost to dealers like Griswold is going
There is even a six-month wait for some ammunition.
So far high prices are not slowing down sales and as long as the manufacturers can get the inflated prices they want his prices will have to follow suit.
"It's a sad situation. People think we're gouging them but we're just trying to keep up," he said, as a customer reached out to handle a revolver. "Every time the President opens his mouth to take a deep breath I sell a gun."
"Guns never lose value. Never. They are always a good investment," said Bill Borchers, of Chester, who runs Vermont Gun Shows and who hosts eight gun shows around the state throughout the year. "Now, no one knows what the President is going to do so people keep buying them up."
Vermont has the least restrictive gun laws in the country and an individual who is not a dealer can sell a firearm to another person without doing a background check.
After Sandy Hook, Borchers required all of the gun sellers at his shows to do a background check before a sale. He said most of the dealers had no problem with the new requirement.
"After Sandy Hook all of the newspapers talked about how easy it was for people to get guns in Vermont and the last thing we want is people coming up from Boston to buy their guns," Borchers said. "No one wants to sell a gun and then pick up the paper the next day and find out it was involved in a shooting."
Borchers has been holding the gun shows around the state for the past seven years and he said everything changed after Sandy Hook.
About 1,500 people purchased admission tickets to the show in Brattleboro this weekend.
Still, Ken Tassie, of Bellows Falls, who deals in antique guns and knives, says his sales have slowed down lately.
Maybe it is because people are buying up modern weapons, or maybe it is the recession, but Tassie said he is seeing less interest in collectable military equipment.
"It's nothing like it was five years," he said. "People want to spend money on weapons they can use for self defense."
He said German and Nazi emblems and patches are still good sellers.
Ian Rutka is part owner of Highlander Arms in Spofford, N.H. and he said it is frustrating to hear so much of the gun control debate driven by fear.
The Internet gives anyone a platform, he said, and strong opinions now blaze across cyberspace at lightening speed, amping up everyone's agenda.
He is a fervent believer in the Second Amendment, and as long as he can get them, he'll sell them.
"It's not the way I would choose to do it, but fear works. It always has," Rutka said. "We'd rather increase sales with education, but right now everyone is so panicked. Fear is never a great way to spread information, it's not sustainable, but it's not the first time it's happened."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.