There was little sign that Oregon’s most recent gun-control legislation had affected firearms sales at one of the West’s biggest sportsmen’s shows on Saturday.
Vendors at the 41st annual Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show and Sport Fishing Boat Show said that sales of all types of outdoor gear were brisk. Reports that private gun sellers had contacted licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks were few.
The show, held at the Portland Expo Center, was expected to draw up to 15,000 people over five days, but several vendors said they thought many more than that will have come through by the time the event wraps up Sunday.
A half hour after the doors opened Saturday, a satellite parking lot at Portland Meadows was half full. Hundreds of people lined up in camo gear to wait for school buses to shuttle them to the expo center.
Guns and their accessories made up a small share of the merchandise on display. Also for sale were pickup trucks, ATVs, boats, fishing poles, lures, bows, knives, heavy-duty coolers, wine and guided trips to locales as far away as South Africa.
Children were invited to catch trout with bamboo poles and check out a collection of exotic animals that had been taxidermied. Among those on display were a civet cat and a giraffe.
Johnny Case has come to the show with his father and siblings every year for the past nine. “It’s kind of a family thing,” he said. “Every year, it gets bigger and bigger.”
Case, a 32-year-old truck driver from Vancouver, is especially interested in the fundraising and charity events that coincide with the show, such as efforts to take children out on hunting trips.
Case planned to spend both days this weekend perusing gear with his bow-hunting buddies and his wife.
Some vendors of firearms and ammunition who have sold goods at the show for years said they had noticed that a growing number of attendees were more interested in personal defense than in hunting or other shooting sports.
“They want to familiarize themselves with firearms for self defense,” said Rob Huson, a sales representative for Federal Premium Ammunition.
Most vendors said the economic recession hardly affected their business, and all reported that sales were on an upswing, especially ammunition.
“Everyone is in the mood to have fun,” said John Vaca, a national events manager for Bushnell Outdoor Products. “People are enjoying shooting sports again.”
Two gun vendors said they had done background checks for private gun sales since an Oregon law requiring such checks took effect last August. Oregon has required background checks for sales at gun shows for more than a decade.
Curt Mendenhall, who sells about 25 custom rifles a year through his company, Curt’s Archery and Custom Guns, said he had performed two checks for private sales. Oregon State Police charge $10 per background check, and Mendenhall tacked on $15 for his time.
“I don’t even know how many private people know this is something they have to do yet,” he said.
Jeani Durkheimer, one of the owners of Northwest Armory, said the company has also done some checks for private sales, though she couldn’t say how many. The company asks customers to pay a $40 fee for the service.
Background checks generally take between 30 minutes and two hours, vendors said.
One customer at Saturday’s show was 174th in line. Durkheimer expected to receive the check’s results in about two hours.
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