MANCHESTER — At the state’s largest gun show, not everyone is against regulations — but some feel legislators aren’t listening to them.
The Manchester Gun Show was held Saturday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown hotel. A few dozen vendors sold new and old guns, boxes of antique ammunition, even knives and swords. Some tables were covered in books about military history, others displayed World War II items, including a smattering of Nazi items. Others hawked gun accessories like concealed-carry holsters printed with the “We the People” preamble to the Constitution.
One vendor had a 6-foot cardboard cutout of former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the presidential candidate who in a September debate said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AK-47, your AR-15.” Next to the cutout was a hand-lettered sign reading, “Hell no, Beto.”
Republican political candidates, including Senate candidates Corky Messner and former state Rep. Bill O’Brien stalked the hall. The scent from a roasted nut stand inside the convention hall wafted through the bright white room.
The show came just over a month after the Legislature sustained Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes of three gun control bills. The bills would have established gun-free school zones, instituted a three-day waiting period for firearms purchases and required anyone selling a gun to run the sale through a licensed dealer, who would background check the buyer — a policy that a March poll found was supported by 90% of New Hampshire residents, and 85% of gun owners.
Some at the gun show, including Carol Bostic of the Women’s Defense League, said they wanted legislators to repeal laws and make it easier to own firearms.
“The more bills they write, the worse off we are,” she said.
As a federally-licensed dealer, Jim Cunningham already has to run every buyer through a federal database before selling them a firearm.
“I wouldn’t sell to anybody without running them through,” he said. “If they get denied, they get denied,” he said.
One vendor said he thought AK-47s and AR-15s should be regulated more like fully automatic weapons, with stringent background checks, high fees and a monthslong application process. The man did not wish to be identified because, he said, his business would dry up if he expressed that opinion.
Al MacArthur Jr., a firearms instructor, said he thought New Hampshire’s background check system is strong.
“Is it a perfect system? No,” MacArthur said. But he said last session’s gun control bills would not have made New Hampshire any safer.
“It’s feel-good laws that will do absolutely nothing,” he said.
MacArthur opposed the three laws, in part because he feels the ideas did not originate in New Hampshire, and didn’t take into account the experiences of people who own and use guns.
MacArthur is not sure what regulations he would propose, if a state representative ever asked — which they don’t, he said. He said it was important for him that his family be well-trained in the use of firearms, but said he wasn’t sure people required to take a course would be good students. He has had students court-ordered to take his firearms safety courses, and said they have not been the most attentive students.