Florida Gun Show Sees Record Attendance 10 Days After Mass Shooting at Parkland School

The Florida Gun Show event in Tampa has seen record attendence despite the ongoing gun law debates surrounding the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Florida news station WTSP reported that the weekend's event was more popular than ever, even though it came so soon after the mass shooting that killed 17 people on February 14. Given that gun sales generally increase in the aftermath of mass shootings, it should perhaps come as no surprise that gun show attendance remains stubbornly high.

The event in Tampa was one of 40 such shows taking place around the country over the weekend.

Around 7,000 people attended the Tampa event on Saturday (February 24), and organizers were expecting even more on Sunday. The show manager, George Fernandez, told WTSP that he had never seen such numbers.

GettyImages-919632872 Gun enthusiasts attend the South Florida Gun Show at Dade County Youth Fairgrounds in Miami, Florida, on February 17, 2018 MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images

The next Florida Gun Show event in Fort Lauderdale has been cancelled after the town’s mayor asked organizers to show respect to the victims of the shooting. However, the furore seems to have galvanised gun fans rather than put them off.

“Some of the people attending are afraid that future legislation will impact their gun ownership rights,” Fernandez said.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson has proposed new laws that would require private sellers to perform background checks on buyers at gun shows. However, Fernandez said this would not have stopped the massacre.

“This was a mental health issue. This is someone who should have been identified from the beginning by law enforcement,” Fernandez said.

Nelson has also said he would like to see a ban on AR-15 rifles, the style of weapon used in the Parkland attack and in several other mass shootings.

GettyImages-919628948 A woman holds a weapon during the South Florida Gun Show at Dade County Youth Fairgrounds in Miami, Florida, on February 17, 2018 MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. politicians have been revisiting the question of gun control in response to the Parkland killings. Much of the momentum has been built by students who survived the massacre.

Members of the Never Again student movement travelled 800 miles to Florida’s State Capitol in Tallahassee on February 21 to demand harsher gun laws. Members of the group also publicly challenged Florida Senator Marco Rubio over campaign donations he received from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and told NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, “We will support your two children in a way that you will not.”

The students have dominated the headlines in recent days, shaping the national response to the tragedy. One of the most recognizable faces of the movement, Emma Gonzalez, already has almost double the Twitter followers of the NRA even though she only joined the site 10 days ago.

Despite facing threats and conspiracy theories accusing them of being “crisis actors”, the survivors have built a campaign that recently saw major companies like United Airlines and Enterprise car rental cut their ties with the NRA.

The protest movement has spread far beyond Parkland, taken up by students all over the country who feel their voices are being ignored. Defying threats of punishment, thousands of schoolchildren staged walkouts. Many lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 students killed in Florida. 

GettyImages-920790842 Demonstrators chant during a demonstration supporting gun control reform near the White House on February 19, 2018 in Washington, DC Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The students have vowed to continue their action. Never Again has scheduled the "March For Our Lives" demonstration for March 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In the aftermath of the attack, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott announced a $500 million “Major Action Plan” to improve gun safety. The plan proposed taking weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people, raising the minimum age for gun sales, and banning bump stocks. The plan will not include changes to gun show background checks or a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15.

The Florida House and Senate have until the end of session on March 9 to pass any new gun legislation.