MARINETTE — The Bob & Rocco Gun Show is currently taking place at the Community REC Center. The show began Friday at 3 p.m. and went until 8, and will continue to run through the weekend, opening today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Ron Martin, the show’s director, said he does gun shows pretty much every weekend up until summer begins. He said the group stays in Wisconsin and holds events throughout the state through May.
“This is the first one here in this building, and we were here about 25 years ago at the college,” Martin said.
Martin said people are able to buy or sell guns at the shows that he runs. He said people can also trade guns if they happen to have some in their possession that they don’t want, however any gun brought in has to be checked at the door.
“A lot of people are looking for ammunition,” Martin said, “but most people just come and look around. They do buy a lot of stuff, and there are some people that travel all over just going to the show. There’s one guy out of Milwaukee on a motorcycle; we’ll be in Milwaukee one week and then we’re in Eagle River, and there he is in Eagle River!”
Martin said he did his first gun show in 1976, and really got into it in the 1980s. He started working in the gun business in around 1988, and about 11 years ago he started doing gun shows full-time, taking over for Bob Pucci, the one who started the Bob & Rocco Gun Shows. “I didn’t have a job anymore, and the people I lived near didn’t have jobs because they closed the plant and moved it to Kentucky. I had this business, the gun business, and since that was considered a job, I didn’t qualify for unemployment. So we started doing full-time right then,” he said.
Those who buy guns at the show, Martin said, do need to undergo a background check and fill out other necessary paperwork in order to purchase their firearms. He said this is the case for purchasing semi-automatic and most other guns; the background check may only take a few minutes, but the rest of the process could take about a week or so. Pucci’s collection featured a wide assortment of fully automatic weapons that were available to be purchased, but Martin said the process for being able to own one of those can take a year or more.
Martin says he sells just about everything, but he sells more long guns than handguns. “I don’t have a big selection of handguns either. Some of the other vendors who come to the other shows have a lot of handguns, but a lot of them don’t have inventory because they can’t get them,” he said.
Martin said a lot of gun manufacturers haven’t been able to bring their workers back in yet, and even if they did he said manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. “There’s more guns being sold now; they’re selling guns to people who were never interested before. We’ve had a lot of first-time buyers and you have to explain a lot of stuff to them. It’s changed a lot just in the last few months,” he said.
The show isn’t just about the guns, though. Other vendors were also selling artwork, furs and other souvenirs. One vendor was selling hand-made swords and axes, and said his family has been hand making weapons like them for three generations.
The cost of admission to attend is $6, but anyone under 14 can come for free. Martin said the proceeds from the event go to the Take a Kid Hunting Foundation and to Camp Neal, a disabled veteran rehab area which features an ADA-compliant fishing dock, and is also used as a scout campground and training center for women and children in outdoor activities. The next show will be next weekend in Waukesha, Wisconsin.