Offbeat: South Florida gun show draws crowds, families despite outcry over Parkland school shootings - PressFrom - US

Offbeat South Florida gun show draws crowds, families despite outcry over Parkland school shootings

02:30  06 may  2018
02:30  06 may  2018 Source:

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla._Gun lovers flocked to Fort Lauderdale's gun show Saturday, knowing that its days may be numbered.

The weekend event is the first high-profile gun show in Broward County since the Feb. 14 massacre at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. It also comes at a time when students from Parkland are leading a national push for gun control.

But at Saturday's gun show, teenagers and children as young as 7 were in the crowd, mirroring their parent's interest in firearms of all kinds. Women pushed baby strollers past tables lined with guns and knives. Men walked hand-in-hand with their young sons and daughters.

"This is a family event - this is not an event where guys are running around in camouflage yelling," said Jorge Fernandez, manager of the Florida Gun Show. "There is no boogeyman here."

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The gun show usually draws a crowd of 5,000 people and the trend was expected to continue this weekend… Ft Lauderdale Gun Show (screen shot: Infantry The gun shows at War Memorial have drawn opposition for years, but the outcry has been louder since the Parkland school shootings Feb.

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The gun show, held seven times a year at the War Memorial Auditorium in Holiday Park, may have its last show in November, if city commissioners have their way.

But gun show owner Khaled Akkawi said Saturday that he has the right to keep holding the show at War Memorial through 2025.

"This is an ongoing contract," he said. "They can't kick us out."

But Fort Lauderdale commissioners want it gone by year-end.

During an April 3 workshop, commissioners agreed informally that the gun shows will not continue past November, when the company's license agreement with the city expires.

"I fully respect the right of people to own guns," Mayor Dean Trantalis said Saturday. "I just don't feel we should have a gun show in the middle of Holiday Park, a playground where children play soccer, volleyball and baseball."

The gun shows at War Memorial have drawn opposition for years, but the outcry has been louder since the Parkland school shootings Feb. 14.

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"When our contract ends this fall with Gun Show, I hope we never see the words Fort Lauderdale-Gun Show-War Memorial again," City Commissioner Heather Moraitis said on Twitter this week. "It's time to think about different programming options at War Memorial in the heart of our city."

On Saturday, Trantalis was stunned to hear that families were bringing children to the gun show, where firearms of all types were for sale, from tiny pistols to AR-15s like the semi-automatic rifle used in the Parkland shooting.

"Wow," Trantalis said. "What can I say. I don't know how to respond to that."

The gun show usually draws a crowd of 5,000 people, Fernandez said, and he expected the trend to continue this weekend. Some have been waiting to attend since November, when the last gun show was held at War Memorial.

Organizers canceled February's show.

Some firearms enthusiasts at the show Saturday said they were there to buy guns to protect themselves, especially in light of the Parkland shootings, in which 17 people died and 17 others were wounded.

"We are getting a .380 (pistol) and a revolver," said Tamarac resident Diana Atienne, her 1-year-old son asleep in her arms and her 3-year-old daughter watching cartoons from her stroller. "As a parent, (the Parkland attack) just makes me want to carry a firearm at all times to protect my kids. Who's to say one of those people won't walk up to us at Walmart?"

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Ellen Opris, of Fort Lauderdale, came with 14-year-old daughter Charlotte in search of a handgun and a holster.

"You have to learn about gun safety and this is a good place to do it," said Charlotte, whose parents have taken her to a range to hone her shooting skills.

When she turns 21, she plans to buy a revolver for protection, she said.

Ellice Howell-Francis of was helping her daughter Janei pick out her first gun and take a course in gun safety.

"She just turned 21," Howell-Francis said. "I told her she needed to know the rules and get a concealed weapons permit before she got a gun."

Pembroke Pines resident Modesto Gonzalez perused the aisles with his wife and 7-year-old son Alex, a gun show veteran.

"This is his third gun show," Gonzalez said. "I'm looking to by a handgun for myself and a little pistol for him. He already has his own rifle."

Gonzalez ridiculed the anti-gun movement that's taken the country by storm since the Parkland shootings.

"We take kids at 18 and send them to war," he said. "Guns are a part of our lives and they always will be."

The next gun show will be held June 30 and July 1.

Fernandez expects a steady stream of gun buyers at that event too.

"Because of Parkland, the anti-gun rhetoric is more popular right now," he said. "But firearms are part of the American way of life."

One thing appeared to be missing from Saturday's gun show: bump stocks.

The devices make a semi-automatic rifle shoot like a machine gun. One was used last year in the shooting rampage that killed 58 people in Las Vegas, prompting a proposed ban.

"I haven't seen any for sale here since the Las Vegas incident," Fernandez said. "They may be going on the private market."

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at

Parents of slain Parkland students are running for county school board .
Two Parkland, Florida, parents announced their candidacies Tuesday for the Broward County School Board, running on a platform that no mother or father should ever experience losing a child to a school shooter. Lori Alhadeff's daughter, Alyssa, and Ryan Petty's daughter, Alaina, were among 17 people killed when a gunman went on a killing spree February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. These are the victims of the massacre Alhadeff, 43, in announcing her bid for the District 4 seat held by Abby Freeman, said that until three months ago she had never imagined herself as a politician or an activist.

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