The Land of the Sky Gun and Knife Show continues today at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds in Ladson. Doors open at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults; children 12 and younger get in free.
LADSON — David and Jacquee Eller browsed the merchandise at the Exchange Park fairgrounds, which was transformed into a shopping mall of guns and knives.
They selected two pistols — a .45-caliber Rock Island 1911 and a .22-caliber Beretta — and within minutes, they passed criminal background checks and carried the new toys home.
This weekend, the Ellers and other enthusiasts browsed about 250 tables of antique and modern firearms, custom knives, military paraphernalia, swords and even jewelry at the Land of the Sky Gun and Knife Show.
Recent media attention has raised questions, however, about whether legally purchased guns can too easily end up in the wrong hands.
Last year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued a Summerville pawn shop owner and other gun store owners across the country for allegedly allowing guns to be sold illegally to straw buyers, contributing to violence in the Big Apple.
But earlier this week a circuit judge found that Larry Mickalis of Mickalis Pawn Shop can sue the mayor for branding the shop "a rogue gun dealer."
Mickalis alleges that the mayor and his representatives damaged his business and reputation by trying to falsely paint him as a nuisance gun dealer. He denied breaking the law and filed a fraud and defamation suit against Bloomberg, the city of New York and various investigators working on the city's behalf.
The Ellers know firsthand how sometimes legally purchased guns can end up in the wrong hands.
They said a teenager broke into their house almost two years ago and stole two guns, including a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol that was worth about $1,600. He resold the guns on the black market but was later caught, they said.
While illegal gun purchases have been the focus of some recent reports, the process for legally obtaining firepower can be quick and efficient.
"It's good that you can come and buy your guns and people can show 'em, and it's easy to do," David Eller said.
But of course, he added, first you have to pass proper criminal history tests. The tests typically take 5 minutes or less, organizers said, and are only for buying firearms, not carrying concealed ones.
Show promoter Mike Kent said he hosts about 20 or 25 shows each year. "This is one of the most basic freedoms we have," Kent said.
No loaded firearms are allowed at any shows. A nearly-full jar of cartridges collected from "unloaded guns" sits by the entrance. Kent said the cartridges have been collected over the years. "Our biggest thing is safety," he added.
Vendors sold holsters, samurai swords, handguns, rifles and pocket knives. There were also snacks for the kids, both big and little.
"It's great as a shopper," said Tom Glaab of the gun advocacy group GrassRoots South Carolina. "You can come to one place. It's kind of like going to a discount mall."
At the show, he passed out bumper stickers proclaiming "Guns Save Lives: 2.5 Million Defensive Uses Each Year."
Glaab said his organization works to rid state gun laws of unnecessary restrictions for carrying legal firearms and works to clarify legal jargon that might be confusing to some gun owners.
Ultimately, the group advocates for responsible firearm ownership, according to their Web site.