Missouri Gun and Knife Show returns to Show Me Center

Sunday, September 25, 2011
Weapons enthusiasts meet for the Missouri Gun and Knife Show Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

A record number of vendors took part in the Missouri Gun and Knife Show at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, exhibiting collectibles and sporting firearms, knives, accessories and military memorabilia.

The venue was packed to capacity with 430 tables early Saturday. So many vendors were interested that some had to be turned away this year, said organizer J.D. King, a gun enthusiast since his teens who has been involved with the show over the past decade.

King emphasized the show's educational value. "Guns are the history of America," he said, recognizing that the show's purpose is sometimes misunderstood. "What you don't hear about is the art of it and the history of it."

"There is a story behind every one of them," vendor Nelson Eaker said.

King said most attendees were sportsmen and collectors. When asked what special item a collector might be hoping to discover among the many vintage and unusual items on display, he didn't hesitate to answer.

"The Winchester 1873, the one in 1,000," King said, explaining that though 1,000 were intended for production only about 200 actually were made, making the rifle rare.

"Times have changed. Not everybody has the same values as 40 or 50 years ago," said Jim Davis, representing SEMO Gun Sales. He said increased interest in personal safety and defense, especially among women, is another draw to the show. Davis teaches private concealed-carry classes that make citizens eligible for a concealed weapon permit. He remarked on the importance of quality, ongoing training, practice and selection of the appropriate firearm to ensure effectiveness and safety.

"They are like a kitchen utensil," Davis said. "Every one has its purpose."

In Missouri, no waiting period is required to purchase a rifle or handgun. Federally licensed dealers must complete criminal background checks for all gun purchases. Private dealers can sell long guns without a background check. In the past, representatives from the sheriff's office were available on-site to perform checks, but vendors now can complete them by phone at their tables.

On opening day, Friday, 1,280 people attended, with around 7,000 expected by the end of the weekend.

King attributes the success of the show in part to the care taken by organizers to concentrate on vendors selling guns and knives rather than allowing an abundance of other items that could give the show more of a "flea market" atmosphere. Modern and antique long guns dominated the merchandise for sale and exhibit. Knife vendors account for about 30 percent of the show, followed by a slimmer number of sellers of accessories and handcrafted items.

Today is the last day of the show, with doors opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 4 p.m.

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