'Gun friendly' crowd turns up for show
A gun show drew thousands to the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Saturday, the same day that rallies against stricter gun-control measures were being held across the nation.
“This show is definitely the busiest one I've ever seen or attended,” said David Pawlikowski, owner of Bear Paw Arms in Mt. Pleasant. “The attendance here shows the public is gun friendly. They like their guns.”
People were lining up as early as 6 a.m., two hours before opening, for the first day of the two-day show hosted by the Pennsylvania Gun Collectors Association. It continues on Sunday.
“I just wanted to shop around and see what was here, exercise our Second Amendment rights while we still can,” said John Casaldi of Bethel Park.
Association President Phil Dacey of Shaler, a retired Pittsburgh police officer, said the event was the association's regular January show and had nothing to do with the nationwide rallies. But talk of stricter gun control measures and bans on certain weapons were a driving force behind the turnout.
“When they say ban, that gets people worried,” Dacey said. “You'd think for politicians they'd be a little smarter.”
Said Pawlikowski: “Some people are in a panic. Some people are in denial. Some just don't care.”
Frazer police reported no problems despite the large crowd. The room was kept open as a steady stream of people came in and left. Security and safety precautions were tight.
The association has been holding shows since 1948, and at Pittsburgh Mills for two years. Saturday saw a paid attendance of 4,000, as many as past shows got in two days, Dacey said.
“This is probably our biggest crowd, certainly since we've been here. The line is constant,” Dacey said.
The show featured 140 vendors. Guns of all types were being bought, sold and displayed. Some owners could be seen walking the floor with sale signs on their weapons.
Background checks for purchases that required them were taking much longer than normal, Dacey said.
Casaldi had brought a Winchester rifle to sell but didn't make a deal. He said the room was crowded, making it tough to see the dealer tables. Prices were said to be higher.
“You never know what you're going to see at these things. They're a lot of fun to come with your family,” he said, his 11-year-old son at his side.
Casaldi said he noticed a good number of women in the crowd. Margaret Kalichuk of Plum was among the women at the show.
Kalichuk said she was looking to buy a .22-caliber pistol to carry in place of a .38.
“They're too heavy. I want something light,” she said.
Frank Rayer came from his home in Clairton with an interest in older military weapons. He brought a World War II-era Remington 1903 but didn't find a buyer to meet his price.
Rayer said the debate over gun control makes him laugh.
“The anti-gunners are rattling their sabers about banning guns, and everyone runs out and gets one,” he said.
How people feel about guns has a lot to do with how they were raised, Rayer said. He said he grew up at a time when kids would go hunting before school, and then drive to school with their rifles in their cars.
“A lot of the people who are anti-gun have probably never shot a gun. They have an irrational fear of guns. That's kind of our fault,” he said.
Dave Rofner of Kittanning sees a cultural difference in the debate between those who live in the cities and those who live out in the country.
“People in the city don't understand. They never will. There's a lot of good people who own a lot of guns and they enjoy it,” he said. “People in the city have no idea how we live.”
Pawlikowski was encouraged by what he saw at the show.
“I wish we could get all of our people to vote as a group. We would change everything,” he said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.