Janesville49.6°

Concealed-carry law increases interest in gun club and its gun show

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STANLEY B. MILAM
March 4, 2012
— Interest in firearms, fueled partly by Wisconsin’s new concealed-carry law, prompted a thousand gun enthusiasts to the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville on Saturday for the Rock County Rifle and Pistol Club gun show.

“Interest has definitely picked up, and I’m sure the new concealed-carry law has something to do with it,” said the club’s president, Joe LeBeau of Janesville. “We see increased interest in firearms and an increase in our membership.”


LeBeau answered questions about the club Saturday while signing up new club members. He said the club now has about 360 members including adult men and women and junior members.


The current club has been incorporated since 1981, but its roots go back to the Janesville Rifle and Pistol Club founded in 1910.


“We’ve been around a while in one form or another, but we are seeing a lot of growth recently,” LeBeau said. “The club is shut down now for renovations that should be completed by the end of the month.”


The club can afford to make improvements to the clubhouse and indoor range at 1029 S. Jackson St., Janesville, because of successful fundraisers such as the two gun shows it holds each year. Vendors at the shows represent two types of sellers—independent, private collectors and dealers with a federal firearm license.


“I’m a private collector,” said Lee Thompson of Janesville. “Like any collector, my collection grows to the point where I need to thin it out. That’s what I’m doing here at the show.”


Thompson, a retired Janesville police officer, is similar to many collectors in that he specializes in certain types of firearms.


“I concentrate on military weapons because I like to study the history behind them,” Thompson said. “But, I can’t keep all the weapons I’ve collected, so I’m offering some for sale here.”


Thompson had on display a 1944 Walther P38 used by Nazi officers.


The handgun is considered a collectible because all serial numbers on various components match and there are no import markings.


“Unlike the Walther, this is not a collector, but it’s just an interesting piece,” Thompson said holding a 1944 Mauser rifle. “None of the serial numbers match, and there’s an import marking. This weapon was probably damaged in World War II, confiscated by the Russians, taken apart and then re-assembled using parts from various rifles.”


Thompson said he’s not a gun dealer, simply a collector.


“I only go to the club’s two shows a year,” he said. “I don’t have a federal license, so I’m not bound by federal regulations such as background checks, but I’m very particular about my sales.”


The benefit of having a federal license is that it allows the holder to buy, sell and re-sell new and used guns.


Pete Kramer of Cross Plains has a federal license and owns PT Firearms of Cross Plains. He said he likes coming to the Rock County shows, but might have to cut back in the future.


“Business has really picked up, and I’m very busy at the store,” he said. “I just don’t have as much time for the shows any more.”


Kramer agreed that the concealed-carry law is a factor in increased business, but it’s not the only reason.


“There’s just a greater interest in all types of firearms, not just handguns,” Kramer said.


One of the most popular weapons at Kramer’s display was the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle similar to one used by American troops in the Vietnam War.


“That weapon is popular because it has multiple uses, including target shooting and self defense,” Kramer said. “It’s very customizable. You can change the length, caliber and other features.”


Firearms were not the only items for sale at the show. One vendor is signing people up for conceal carry classes, another vendor had shooting apparel for sale and there’s even an opportunity to buy fake books with cutouts for a handgun.


The show continues today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Craig Center on the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville.



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