Gun Show Curmudgeon

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Jan 23, 2004
My 11 year old son has been hunting and shooting long arms with me for a while, and over the last year have been introducing him to pistols as he has matured. Told him it was time to get him a .22 pistol, and that the upcoming gun show would be a good time to look at them and get the feel of them in your hand.

Found a table with some nice Rugers, Walthers, Buckmarks, etc.... so I was looking over the features of each one, how they felt in your hand, heavy, etc... I told him to come over and put one in his hand so we could see how his fingers wrapped around, and how it fit, etc.

Here comes Gun Show Curmudgeon and tells me explicity, "Children are NOT allowed to touch firearms". I told him, that I was here to buy him a pistol and I needed to see how they fit in his hand. Again he replied no exceptions, even if I were going to purchase one. I said.. "Well, we will just find a table who wants to sell one that is interested in helping the customer". He got kind of irritated and just starred at me. I just chuckled and commented to my son what a turd he was and we would find another table.

Funny thing at the numerous other tables the vendors did not seem to mind if I let my son hold one, and kind of figured the purchase was for him.... a couple even mentioned how the Buckmark was one of their top selling pistols. He liked the Walther the best, but I have read poor reviews on them. I understand they don't want kids running around grabbing them, but when I'm there with my son literally right next to me holding the pistol and I have my hands on his hands... I would think that would suffice as far as parental control. We wound up not buying, because I wanted to do some more research.
I'm not sure I'd want a kid fondling my guns at a gun show either.

Even if the kid's dad was right there?
(and assuming the kid's dad didn't look like a bum)

There are a lot of gun-show attendees who I am SURE I would not want handling my wares. But if you are selling guns at a gun show, it seems to me you gotta let people touch the guns.

A the "Nations Gun Show" in Chantilly, VA there are some real Mr. Hanky's who run a bunch of tables back in the far right corner. Lots of cool stuff laid out on the tables, and security-wired. I asked to handle one of the bizarro-looking FN guns right after they got on the market. My request was refused. I won't even be buying toilet paper from those guys even if the only food in the pantry is canned burritos.
Was it a rule of the show or this vendor? It might also depend on the gun itself. If the kid wanted to handle one of mine I would go over the rules first. Where he can point etc...Russ
I don't think it was a rule of the show, as others vendors did not seem to have a problem when I was talking to them. It could be, but I could be wrong.... I would have expected to see some signage or something if that were the case.
There is a difference between random rugrats playing with a historical display and a young customer accompanied by his father approaching a dealers table looking to make a purchase.
In this case the dealer forgot that his job was to sell guns to customers. *shrug*

23 years ago I was 18 and attended my first gun show. There were only two dealers willing to spend a little time talking to a complete newbie and even let me handle firearms that I told them I wasn't in a position to buy.
I also found one shop front dealer with the same attitude.

Over the the subsequent twenty three years those three dealers received the majority of my business. One has died and the remaining two still get the right of first refusal to any special order, transfer or consignment.

I recommended so many friends to one of them that he added me to his dealers licence as an employee so I could handle the paperwork on my friends guns. :)

So now I'm the guy behind the table and as long as the kid is sensible I would have no problem with him checking out his potential first pistol. :)
I've had tables at gun shows for years and I'm old and ugly enough to be a curmudgeon but I never missed an opportunity to encourage a youngster. I've missed deals with impatient adults while assisting and answering questions from young shooters. The guy was wrong, not to mention impolite.
I've been to a gun store locally that said they had a visit from the ATF and they were criticized for allowing anyone under 18 to handle any firearms on the shelf. This was a shop that had their rifles and shotguns on racks so customers could pick them up and look at them. They wouldn't let kids back by the shelves, even with their dads.
At the same time, when my boy was about 5(he's 19 now), I stopped at a gun store and my son was looking at Glocks in the counter. The salesman got one out and handed it to him. Knowing how prone my boy was to dropping everything in our house, I was sweating while he had that brand new Glock in his hands!
I've often assumed it was more a store policy, then any hard and fast rule from Uncle Sam.
Seeing as how minors can buy hunting licenses and deer rifle season tags in Pennsylvania, it appears this is more of a personal policy than any hard law.

I'd just go to someone who wants to make a sale, and not act like a jerk with a man and his son.
bp_cowboy, As a parent, you are in a position to know if your child is mature enough to handle a fire arm. I think you acted just right in this situation. If this dealer didn't want your money, there are plenty who do want your business. I hope you and your son enjoy a lifetime of shooting sports.
As a gun show vendor, I -really- don't like folks pawing through stuff at random... I'm trying to keep an eye on two-three tables of stuff, some of it fairly high dollar. If Daddy walks up, and says explicitly "I'm looking for a boomstick for Junior," there's no problem. HOWEVER, if Daddy walks up, and says "Can I let Junior pick these up?" Well, do you see the difference?

In addition, you have people who don't really know laws, etc., so they err on the far side of caution. I can't really blame them, since if there's something tiny that we miss, we can get into some serious trouble.

"I'm buying a .22 for the boy here" - Do you know that the guy is really the kid's parent? Or maybe you just got someone fishing for a strawman sale, and there's a guy down the row with a camera.
I'm 66 years old but I still ask permission before touching anyone else's property, whether at a gun show or in a store or in a home. Good manners can help avoid hurt feelings...I'm just sayin'...
I don't know what that seller had in mind, but I see it as not a question of could an 11 year old handle a firearm, but could he handle a pistol.

In NYS (same the groans) it is illegal to anyone under 14 to handle a handgun. Is it enforced? Not always. Could the seller as well as the parent be prosecuted to letting the 11 year old handle one? You bet!

With all the negative press about the "gunshow loopholes" and gun shows in general, would I want to press my luck just to try to make a sale? No way!

You want to know if a certain gun fits your son or not, go to a gun-store when it's nearly empty and try it that way. A crowded gun show just isn't the place.
I have taken my daughter to several shows

and had her handle several firearms for the same reason. I have never had a problem. If I had, I would have done the same thing you did. What I don't like is when unsupervised kids grab guns off tables. I have even told a few of them that they should ask first.
There is a difference between random rugrats playing with a historical display and a young customer accompanied by his father approaching a dealers table looking to make a purchase.
In this case the dealer forgot that his job was to sell guns to customers. *shrug*

Kids have all kinds of garbage on their hands (adults can too). Do you really want them touching your merchandise with grease, coca-cola etc etc all over their hands? And I'll point out the dealer wasted his time: the man didn't buy anything.
But this is yet another reason why I don't do gun shows.
I'm not sure how the dealer wasted his time by coming up and saying what he did, as I never even got to look at the prices on each gun or ask a question. There were only two Buckmarks at the show in the configuration I was interested in, and one was at that particular table. The other was priced 20.00 off MSRP and required 3% for CC purchase... so I could not see that as a deal.

Anyway, great feedback so far.
Well, Bubba, then you're not one of my customers, so I'm not going to worry about you.

And the dealer's job is to make a profit while staying out of trouble. "Selling guns to customers" may be a part of that, but this ain't Walmart, and we don't have to smile while someone's adorable little tyke bangs stuff together, and turns a few hundred dollars worth of original bluing into "Well, I can take it home, bead blast it, parkerize it, and mark it down for the next show..."
Congratulations you did a fantastic job of setting a great example to your son by explaining that the gent with the table was a "turd" because he did not want a child to be handling his merchandise. Yes he is there to sell and people will touch things but it is still his stuff and some dealers do require persons to ask permission. Its called respect. Good job. Remember this when you go to sell or display something for sale or another reason.

I used to be a dealer and have set up at shows before and know the etiquette. Those that don't want their wares touched put out signs if permission is needed. As far as setting an example, I appreciate your need to judge my character.
This ain't Disney... But at Disney, if a kid walks up and wants to look at a $1500 vase, the kid gets to look at it. Why? Because most of their large sales are made that way.

Ok The guy missed a potential sale. But what is worse is the way he influenced a future gun owner. Like most other people, I get very irritated at parents who don't discipline their children. (And I still ask if I can touch something before I do.) I do feel like I can recognize a well behaved child the vast majority of the time. I prefer to encourage these kids to handle the hardware with their parents. Take a minute and help them. It could mean a lot of sales over the years.

No. No excuse for the Curmudgeon. They pretty much treat adults the same way, too. Been doing gun shows since the early 70's and finally I hit on putting a sign on my tables that says "Please Handle my Guns - They're Here to be Sold" I have never had a problem. Treat and speak to children with respect and they tend to respond the same way...
Ok The guy missed a potential sale.
No he didn't. The OP didn't buy anything. No sale was missed. Potentially lots of hassle was missed. The seller, rightly or wrongly, had made certain rules and seems to have been polite about it. In return he gets called a "turd" and vilified on this forum. Sounds like he made the right call to me.
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