There are over 60 gun shows in the United States over a given weekend and I attended one that takes place right outside of Washington D.C. The Nation’s Gun Show is a large expo where people can purchase firearms but there’s a lot more than just weapons which keeps bringing people back.
You can see my experience in the video above or read on.
Gun sales have surged since the coronavirus pandemic and every state can regulate gun shows based on their individual mandates. In Virginia, where The Nation’s Gun Show takes place, masks were mandatory indoors and most in line outside were wearing them. Signs reminding people to social distance were conspicuous as were those saying “Enter At Your Own Risk” due to Covid-19.
The large halls inside the Dulles Expo Center gave people plenty of space when walking around – the show was busy but not crowded – but most of the congregating was around the gun vendor tables. In particular, around the semi-automatic gun vendor tables.
None of the guns were loaded – vendors or otherwise; there were signs stating not to bring loaded firearms inside – but a few visitors wearing bulletproof vests with rifles strapped to their backs. A bit unnerving at first if you’re not used to being around so many guns but after a short while that feeling wears off. Vendors (notably younger ones) taking apart guns for assembly demonstrations, answering questions about ranges, use, gun quarks… all of what you might expect at a gun show.
Surrounding that though were booths explaining the gun laws in various states, as well the regulations for Washington D.C. Cards were handed out in line explaining the gun laws in Virginia, where you can carry a gun, open-carry, concealed, what those terms mean.
Looking back at you around the gun show are soldiers from the paintings of Civil War battles, America’s Founding Fathers with quotes about freedom and liberty underneath their portraits. As you move around the show floor with the crackle of tasers being demonstrated in the background, vendors come up and ask if you’re registered to vote.
The Republican banners around the voter registration booths, not to mention plentiful Donald Trump banners around, make it obvious who most of the vendors are supporting in any given election. After registering to vote, you can vote for whoever you want in an election, but the idea is to get as many people voting as possible. At The Nation’s Gun Show though, the biggest barrier to voting in the U.S. – registration – is made easy and extremely likely to mean a vote for a Republican candidate.
Revisiting The Show
The Nation’s Gun Show is a large 3 day event but it’s not all gun sales keeping it from recurring once a month on average. There’s a lot more than weapons on a sale here, it’s a community not too unlike other forms of fandom. Guns might get you through the door the first time but everything surrounding them back over and over again.