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Florida Gun Show sees 'record number' of attendees amid gun control debate

The manager for the Florida Gun Show, George Fernandez, says they've never seen such a big crowd.
Credit: 10News
Thousands of gun enthusiasts flocked to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Florida Gun Show event.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Thousands of gun enthusiasts -- more so than ever -- flocked to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Florida Gun Show event.

Organizers say they had a record number of people attend the event on Saturday, Feb. 24, almost 7,000, and expected more Sunday.

The manager for the Florida Gun Show, George Fernandez, says they’ve never seen such a big crowd.

The company canceled the show in Fort Lauderdale next month after the mayor asked them to show respect to the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting earlier this month.

With the heated debate over gun control staying front and center, Fernandez expressed concerns over proposed gun laws possibly restricting gun owners.

Photos: Tears, hugs and prayers at vigil for Florida shooting victims

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

Florida lawmakers, like U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, want stricter laws to fix the so-called "gun show loophole," which allows people to buy a gun at one of these events without getting a background check.

Not only that, Nelson is also calling for a ban on assault weapons, saying murders were down after they were banned back in 1994.

“Before that law, they were high and after that law, when the NRA killed the law in 2004, the number of deaths as a result of assault weapons has grown up like a rocket taking off,” he says.

More: Gov. Rick Scott: FDLE will investigate response into Parkland school shooting

Fernandez disagrees with both restrictions.

About 95 percent of the vendors at this weekend’s show, he says, are required by law to run background checks since they are licensed dealers.

However, the other 5 percent of vendors are private citizens. Several Florida counties, including Pinellas and Hillsborough, have passed ordinances that would require private citizens to run background checks as well.

But Fernandez says tightening the "loophole" still wouldn't have stopped the massacre at Stoneman Douglas.

19-year-old Nikolas Cruz passed a background check before purchasing a semiautomatic AR 15-style rifle.

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

Helping people who suffer from mental health has been included under Governor Rick Scott's "Action plan" to keep kids safe

So is banning "bump stocks" and raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

Outside the Florida Fair Grounds, Sergio Gonzalez and his son protested in support of banning assault rifles.

“It doesn't have to be my child, I'd grieve for any child killed in a mass shooting that's senseless. If you want to protect yourself, get yourself a revolver or how about learning how to fight,” says Gonzalez.

Florida Gun Shows will put on another Tampa event in late April and early June.

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