TAMPA — An event put on by Florida Gun Shows in Tampa over the weekend attracted record numbers of attendees, despite (or perhaps because of) the event’s proximity to Parkland, site of the latest school shooting massacre.
Approximately 7,000 people visited the gun show on Saturday alone, with more expected on Sunday. Obviously, the Valentine’s Day shooting by Nikolas Cruz that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was on everyone’s mind.
“We don’t want to be the people going to funerals and saying coulda, woulda, shoulda,” said event consumer Juanita Stafford, who purchased bulletproof backpack plates for her eight grandchildren. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
Laying aside the horror that such considerations even need to be taken for schoolchildren, it is, perhaps, laudable to some degree that gun merchants at least acknowledge a real threat and make such defensive items available.
It seems likely that the record attendance was less a function of the desire to purchase protective gear (like that of Ms. Stafford) than it was due to the worries of firearm enthusiasts that their ability to buy guns might be restricted in the future from the backlash against the Parkland massacre.
Even President Donald Trump has suggested strengthening background checks and raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21. (It should be noted that the 18-year-old Cruz bought the AR-15 he used to carry out his attack legally.)
The National Rifle Association, of course, is opposed to any such measures.
As it happens, Florida Gun Shows is not entirely tone deaf to the issues. They canceled a gun show planned for Fort Lauderdale next month, a location much closer to Parkland. (Since Tampa is approximately 250 miles away from the site of the mass shooting, organizers felt able to go forward with the event there.)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have upended the usual narratives put forward by pro- and anti-gun groups in the wake of mass shootings by being unusually vocal and active with their time in the national spotlight, speaking out against gun violence and urging more common-sense gun restrictions before the Florida legislature.
It seems unlikely that Florida gun collectors have much to worry about just yet, though the tides may well be turning on the issue of gun control, albeit slowly.