AUGUSTA — Some dealers at Saturday’s gun show at the Augusta Civic Center agreed that talk about gun control is great for gun sales, but they had varied opinions about President Obama’s plan to broaden background checks to curb gun violence and mass shootings.

The dealers were reacting to Obama’s latest call to better define who should be required to be licensed as gun dealers, who by law must conduct background checks on buyers to ferret out felons and others prohibited from owning firearms. Current law exempts collectors and gun hobbyists.

The president’s proposal, which he put forth in a Jan. 5 speech, falls far short of the gun restrictions he tried unsuccessfully to get from Congress in the wake of the 2012 massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut. His latest push seeks to use executive orders to clarify existing laws and beef up enforcement by hiring 230 more examiners to process background checks on the roughly 63,000 requests made daily.

Some of the dealers at Saturday’s show said the proposals will mean business as usual.

“The laws are already there,” said Craig Taylor, owner of Wild Wood Inc., a gun shop in South China.

Taylor said Obama’s proposals will bring about little or no change in the way he operates because he already follows the gun laws.

The Augusta gun show was organized by DiPrete Promotions Inc. of Bow, New Hampshire, which puts on seven or eight shows in New Hampshire and Maine annually.

 Jim Jones does some pricing calculations while a customer fills out their background check materials before purchasing a handgun at the gun show at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta on Saturday. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer)

Jim Jones does some pricing calculations while a customer fills out their background check materials before purchasing a handgun at the gun show at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta on Saturday. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer)

Despite a snowstorm and treacherous driving conditions, hundreds of people had shown up by 11 a.m. to pay $8 each to peruse dozens of counters loaded with rifles, handguns and firearms paraphernalia. The show included an array of other items, such as folksy knife handles handcrafted from deer antlers, and more controversial items, such as Nazi swastikas and Confederate flags. The show continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nationwide, about 21 million guns were sold through background checks in 2014. Some industry analysts say millions more firearms are sold every year through private transactions not subject to the checks.

At the gun show, some dealers prominently displayed laptops that they used to make on-the-spot background checks. Others used their cellphones to call the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after customers filled out a 2½-page questionnaire – called the Firearms Transaction Record – for over-the-counter sales. The check can take seconds or minutes, depending on the outcome. If the system returns a background check for further review, the government has three days to act before the buyer can return and buy the gun without clearance.

Most dealers and hobbyists willing to talk at Saturday’s show said Obama’s proposals are redundant and that laws already exist to keep firearms away from dangerous people.

“It is a bit of overkill. This will make it harder for me to sell my guns and not harder for the criminals,” said Joe Baker of Winslow.

Baker, a hobbyist, is trying to sell off much of a gun collection amassed over a lifetime. Now 68, he said he wants to downsize and become a snowbird.

Baker said even though he is not required to do background checks or keep other records as a hobbyist, he is careful whom he sells to. He keeps written records of all his transactions, including the buyer’s driver’s license and other information in case any of his guns, all registered, fall into violent hands.

Several dealers at Saturday’s show claimed the customers whose background checks were not immediately approved would seek out other dealers at the show who were not so scrupulous. Others complained that customers who had to wait for clearance to buy a gun would spend their money on other items instead.

Jim Jones fills out a tag for a recently purchased handgun, while a customer fills out background check materials. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Jim Jones fills out a tag for a recently purchased handgun, while a customer fills out background check materials.
Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

But they generally agreed only a small percentage of their background checks ever resulted in a wait or an outright denial.

Jim Jones, owner of North Augusta Firearms, who has been dealing guns for the past three years, said background checks are not thorough enough. He said the problem is that the federal government, which conducts the checks, and the state do not communicate.

“Background checks have a long way to go,” Jones said.

Jones said it is easy enough to get around the background check laws with “straw” purchasers who buy a gun in their own names for someone who would not otherwise pass the background check.

Chris Kravitt of Treestump Leather, a custom knife sheath, holster, gun and knife shop in Waltham, said it’s the American culture that is to blame for gun violence. Changing the culture is much more difficult, so some people look for an easy fix by advocating for gun control, he said.

Kravitt said he takes solace in knowing that the background check system works, which he discovered when a friend, who had a restraining order against him, came to him wanting to know whether he would qualify for gun ownership. Kravitt ran the background check, which was denied.

Soon the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was asking questions, Kravitt said. He said it showed him that the system works

“I was glad to know they were really doing this,” Kravitt said.