Beneath cloudy skies and a slight drizzle, crews set up booths, display tables, tents and walkways Friday morning at the Orange County Fairgrounds in preparation for the weekend gun show that organizers expect will bring in record crowds.
Crossroads of the West has been coming to the state-run, 150-acre facility in Costa Mesa multiple times a year for nearly 25 years, but given the political climate with talks of firearms regulation and the recent gun-related violence, Crossroads and other shows have been drawing increased media attention.
"The national publicity that has been surrounding the tragic events of Sandy Hook and the talk of gun control on a national level has motivated a lot of law-abiding citizens to come out and buy guns and ammo," said Bob Templeton, owner of the Utah-based gun show company. "But the fact is, ammunition is in very short supply. We're being told that there's no ammunition available in any of the retail outlets in the Los Angeles area."
Ammo vendors include sellers from Northern California, Templeton said, who are bringing in large quantities to meet the Southland's demand.
"That'll be the merchandise that probably half of the people who come to the show will be looking for," he said. "They typically come and buy their ammunition early. Then they take it to their car and then come back in and see the rest of the show."
The show's previous Orange County attendance record was about 15,000, but on Saturday and Sunday, the event is expected to exceed 20,000. Templeton said the showing in Ontario, where Crossroads had its last show, was a prime indicator of future attendance numbers.
The O.C. Fair & Event Center receives about $600,000 annually from Crossroads through rental fees, parking, and food and beverage sales.
Given the anticipated attendance, the Orange County Sheriff's Department is planning to have four deputies patrolling the events — a larger number than in past years, authorities have said. There will also be two deputies at the adjacent Orange County Market Place.
The deputies will supplement the fairgrounds' on-site security staff.
Sales at the gun show follow the same state guidelines as at storefronts and other sales points. Restrictions include a 10-day waiting period to receive a gun and showing valid identification.
There will also be a "free-speech area" for people to voice their concerns.