Awe inspiring is one way to describe a showroom filled with row upon row of firearms. Looking at the stacks of automatic rifles, shotguns, revolvers, pistols and a myriad of other guns, can be a bit intimidating. Even though the guns (and gun enthusiasts) came in every shape and size, everyone at the Pioneer Gun Show shared a passion for firepower.
As the Amarillo Civic Center hosted the gun show this past weekend, the gun culture of north Texas was on display right alongside the firearms. But while some might get nervous around so many grinning gun enthusiasts, most of those feelings are likely unwarranted.
“I’ve shot guns all my life…” says Richard Gibson, a retiree and member of Cowboy Action Shooting, a competitive shooting organization. “[Shooting’s] a sport. It’s something to do; [it] keeps you going. People go out and they bowl; you got skeet shooters, golf, or whatever. I shoot.”
In a time when more people are concerned about gun safety, Richard is adamant that shooting is not only an enjoyable sport, but a safe one as well. “Cowboy Action Shooting has been going on for close to 35 years. It’s worldwide, and we’re going on 100,000 members now,” he assures. “In all those years there’s never been a fatality or serious accident. It’s a family sport. We’ve got kids, 8, 9 and 10 shooting. I know a [member] in Colorado who is 92!”
But competitive shooters aren’t the only ones drawn to gun shows. Collectors of antique firearms are eager to make their rounds through the gun-lined aisles. Yet there are still many who question such a fascination with old guns.
“It’s the history and manufacturing,” explains Harold Zestal, an antique gun vendor at the show. “During the Civil War, there were more patents issued than any other time in history. There was a lot more innovation going on… We went from muzzle loaders to repeating rifles all within the time period of the Civil War.”
Antique guns may not pose as much of a danger after being around more than 100 years, but some people might have concerns over the modern weapons available at the show. Thankfully, Amarillo officials were present to ensure the Pioneer Gun Show didn’t turn into the Wild West.
“We make sure everyone abides by safety rules,” said an officer at the show who requested anonymity. “We make sure all the guns are tied – you can see all the guns are tied down… We walk around, are visible and make sure people know we’re here.”
However, with all the talk about gun control, it was inevitable that many at the show had strong opinions on the matter. “I’m not going to rob anyone with my muzzle loader,” Harold remarks. And Richard was quick to respond with the age-old saying, “Guns aren’t dangerous; it’s the person shooting who’s dangerous.”
by Alex Mann
Alex is a senior at West Texas A&M University currently completing his final semester for a degree in Mass Communications. When not working, he enjoys developing his photography skills, reading a good book and being with family and friends.