Fort Lauderdale holds annual gun show amid gun control debates

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Fort Lauderdale’s annual gun show drew thousands of people on Saturday, nearly two weeks after a mass shooting in Orlando and in the middle of a national debate on gun control.

7News cameras captured gun buyers at the War Memorial Auditorium, located at 800 N.E. 8th St., Saturday morning.

Gun shows tend to attract thousands of people, and in the wake of mass shootings, gun sales do not seem to decrease. “I’m picking up a handgun and maybe an assault rifle,” said a buyer.

For Frank Rodriguez, uncertainty about the future of gun laws in the U.S. prompted him to come to the event to make a purchase. “It’s possible that the laws are going to change, so I wanted to have one before the laws changed,” he said.

Some attendees said they came to the gun show because of the June 12 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in what became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. “It got me to think about it and getting more comfortable around guns and learning how to shoot,” said Taina Reyez.

Police said Fort Pierce resident Omar Mateen used an AR-15 rifle and a handgun to murder 49 people at Pulse. He shot more than 100 people, including survivors, before he was fatally gunned down by police.

Reyez told 7News she doesn’t own a gun but feels like she has to now. “More like self-defense. I still don’t like the idea of owning one, but I would like to feel secure and be able to protect my family,” she said.

However, Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Dean Trantalis said he doesn’t want assault riffles to be sold at gun shows held at the War Memorial Auditorium anymore. “Assault weaponry does not belong in the hand of private individuals,” he said. “The city is the landlord here at War Memorial, and I thought it was an opportunity for us to try to do our job in order to make sure that we can avoid assault weapons from being proliferated throughout the community.”

Not everyone supports Trantalis’ stance on firearms. “I just think it’s a political move,” said a local gun store owner. “I don’t really see it affecting anything in general. Most people that own these firearms are doing it for their own personal use or fun.”

Trantalis went on to say that if the commission approves his proposal, it would just be within the lease of gun shows. This means that assault rifles would not be available at gun shows, but they will still be available for purchase in licensed stores.

Most gun owners 7News interviewed at the show, however, said Trantalis’ proposal is just not fair and, if criminals want to get a gun, they’ll find one. “I don’t know difference between not selling here, at War Memorial, when they can sell it down the road,” said a gun retailer.

Jesus Franco, the owner of the firearm retail store Sabal Arms, said lawmakers in favor of gun control legislation need to shift their focus when dealing with the contentious issue. “Mental health issues or certain levels of radicalization and that sort of thing, I think that’s what we need to focus on,” he said, “and stop blaming the gun and really get to the root of the problem.”

Trantalis said he and the City Commission will address the sale of assault rifles at the gun show after the lease expires in November.

The gun show resumes Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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