By Kate Mather
Los Angeles Times
ONTARIO, Calif. -- Women pushing strollers stopped to peer at handguns in glass cases. Men squinted through scopes. The "clack-clack" of stun guns crackled overhead. A man meandered through the crowd, a black rifle slung over his back with a cardboard sign: "For sale: $1,700."
Less than a month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, business was brisk at one of the nation's largest gun shows, held this weekend at the Ontario Convention Center, where vendors and patrons alike expressed fear of possible new federal restrictions on guns.
Ryan Girard, 41, surveyed the crowd at the Crossroads of the West show Sunday afternoon, a box of ammunition in his hands. "It's out of control this weekend," he said. "People are just scared of what could or could not happen."
Girard said he tried to go to the show Saturday but the out-the-door line was more than four hours long. He opted to come back about 6 a.m. Sunday, three hours before the event opened. He said about 500 people already had staked out spots by the time he arrived.
"I'll tell you right now, Obama is the No.1 gun salesman in the nation," Girard said. "The NRA should give him an award."
President Barack Obama, who has voiced support of a federal ban on assault weapons since his 2008 campaign, tasked his administration with reviewing gun policy shortly after the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Several lawmakers have pledged support of new gun measures, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who promised to introduce an assault-weapons ban similar to the one she wrote in 1994. That ban expired in 2004.
California is home to some of the nation's toughest gun laws. The state has bans on assault weapons and on ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds, strong background check requirements and a 10-day waiting period for sales.
Businesses and trade associations across the country have reported a surge in gun and ammunition sales in recent weeks. The FBI reported 2.78 million firearm background checks were conducted in December - the highest monthly figure since routine background checks were first required in November 1998.
Although gun sales are typically higher in December because of the holidays, last month's background check figure was up more than 900,000 from December 2011. It was also nearly three times the number of checks conducted in October 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
But, the agency said, a "one-to-one correlation" between background checks and gun sales could not be made because of "varying state laws and purchase scenarios."
Frequent vendors said they have seen a noticeable increase in sales.