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At Tampa Gun Show, Many Are Wary Of New Gun Law Proposals

On the show floor over the weekend, signs advertised AR-15's and high capacity magazines for sale.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The possibility of stricter gun laws loomed large over the first gun show in Tampa Bay since the Parkland school shooting,

On the show floor over the weekend, signs advertised AR-15's and high capacity magazines for sale. Both have become the target of Florida gun control advocates who want to see them banned.

A ban on any specific weapons were not a part of the gun law proposals offered by Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature on Friday.

Among the proposals were raising the age limit on buying a gun to 21, keeping guns from people involuntarily admitted to the hospital for mental illness, and putting police officers in all Florida schools.

Jorge Fernandez, one of the organizers with Florida Gun Shows, said he could support buying restrictions for those will mental illness, but would not support raising age limits. He also would not get behind banning any types of firearms.

"I really don't think that would help," he said. "The position of the majority of gun owners is that it's a right, it's in the constitution and it keeps society in balance, and I'm a firm believer in that."

A half dozen protesters stood at the entrance to the fair grounds. One held a sign that read "More guns, more deaths."

Organizers said they received many emails requesting they call off the event, but Fernandez said that's not unusual.

"We usually get emails from people in the gun control lobby expressing discontent with firearms in general," he said. "It's just been a little more frequent given the unfortunate events in Parkland."

At the request of city officials, Florida Gun Shows cancelled an event in Fort Lauderdale scheduled for early March.

Gun owner Robert Guzman attended the gun show looking for a new handgun. He said he bought his first gun three years ago and sees them as a tool to protect his family.

Guzman is wary of giving power to the state or federal government to determine who is mentally ill or not. He said he believes the responsibility for preventing mass shootings should be on individuals, not the government.

"We're blaming the government, we're blaming the president, we're blaming all of them, but the reality is they're not there 24/7, they're not our neighbors," he said.

Guzman said he supports Scott's proposal to put at least one armed police officer in every school.

Others at the show were strongly against any new gun laws.

Jim McCourry, a Tampa Bay resident and gun owner, said he doesn't think restrictions on buying guns will ever work. He said the gun control advocates who have held vigils and press conferences in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School don't respect the Second Amendment.

"Ban all the guns you want, the criminals and the crazies are going to get them regardless," he said.

McCourry also said he has little faith any new restrictions will be enacted.

"It's all for show," he said. "They do it after every shooting. Nothing is going to happen."

The Florida House and Senate have until the end of the session on March 9th to make any changes to the law.

Copyright 2018 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.