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Ventura County

For Some, Happiness Is a Weekend Gun Show

Business: The two-day event draws collectors, hunters and their families with firearms, toys and clothes. One vendor says Ventura doesn't hassle them.

January 13, 2002|KEVIN F. SHERRY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Several thousand people jammed two exposition buildings at Ventura's Seaside Park on Saturday for the start of a two-day gun show that draws novice and veteran shooters, collectors, history buffs and vendors.

The show, which runs through today, also seeks to attract families by offering toys for children, clothes, camping gear and Arizona real estate.

"This is one of the best [shows]," said vendor Gary Hallett, a Rancho Cucamonga retiree who sells custom-made leather holsters and belts. "Ventura is gun-friendly. We never get hassled."

Wearing a black cowboy hat studded with buffalo nickels, Hallett, a former construction worker, attends gun shows every month to supplement his retirement income.

Tyler Jones, a mortgage broker-turned-gun dealer, sells rifles and shotguns at shows throughout the state every weekend. One of his guns costs more than $45,000.

The quality of customers and the job's low stress appeal to Jones, who owns a gun shop in Penryn, just north of Sacramento.

"It's a really low-negativity business," Jones said. "You also have a lot of quality sportsmen in Southern California."

Seaside Park hosts five large gun shows a year, and vendors say big crowds turn out every time for the variety of merchandise offered.

Standing in front of a pile of empty ammunition boxes and camouflage clothes, vendor Milt Carter said the show also draws former military personnel looking for items from their past.

Vendors sell a lot of military surplus, including sleeping bags, backpacks, parachute cords and olive-green fatigues in all sizes.

On Saturday, shoppers searched for antique guns or hard-to-find items, such as metal body armor, swords, riding chaps and authentic bullets from the Civil War.

With 600 tables to look through, seeing the show can take hours.

As several children checked out tables of Beanie Babies, dolls with bobbing heads and wall posters, adults searched for bolo ties, pistol grips and earplugs.

"It's like a walking museum in a way," said Clint Torres, a local vendor.

The show continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. Admission is $8 for adults, and children 11 and younger are free.

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