Gun, knife show draws gun enthusiasts to Palmetto

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 22, 2014 

PALMETTO -- Gun enthusiasts of all calibers came out to the Palmetto Gun and Knife show Saturday.

The show went on all day Saturday and was to continue Sunday at the National Guard Armory in Palmetto and hosted by Gun Show Team.

Instructor Mark Lee, of Concealed Carry Concepts Corp,, said it was a typical crowd for the area.

"It was just honest citizens looking to protect themselves," Lee said.

Both sessions of the class were made up of people over the age of 40, he added. Classes on the east coast of Florida draw questionable permit seekers often times, he said. Straw purchases -- when one person buys a gun for another person who cannot legally purchase it -- are more common there.

"One gang member has kept clean, so he can get his permit so they can go get guns for everybody else," Lee said.

Saturday's show was smaller than most, he said, but featured only licensed dealers.

"We want to play by the rules," Lee said.

Illegal sales of guns at other shows is what gives the industry a bad rap, he said.

Lee does not agree with the new legislation signed this week by Gov. Rick Scott that says that individuals who use a gun in self defense and fire a warning shot cannot be prosecuted.

"I still don't condone that, because what goes up, must come down," Lee said. "If you injure a bystander with a warning shot, you might as well walk up to them and shoot them in the face."

Casey Burke, of Southern Guns in Longwood, agreed with the dangers of a warning shot being fired.

Business was a bit slow Saturday, but that was to be expected in the summer, he said.

"But people are still buying accessories," Burke said. "The craze, post-Sandy Hook, is over."

Suppliers struggled to keep up with the demand for guns after the massacre that occurred at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. The debate over gun control nationwide caused an increase in demand.

That has since tapered off, Burke said.

"Supply is back," he said. "The most growing area is the new shooter."

There is also an increase in gun shows, he said. And nothing has changed in how licensed vendors do business. "People who want to get firearms are going to get them. They steal them," Burke said. "It's like putting a lock on your mailbox, it only keeps the honest people out."

Eddie Wheeler said he was just looking at Saturday's show.

The Army veteran came all the way from Valrico to check out the small show.

"It's not big, but it's nice," Wheeler said. "Sometimes you find more interesting things at the smaller shows."

Wheeler also did not agree with the new warning shot bill signed by Scott.

"I think that is a little stupid to fire a warning shot, it has to go somewhere," Wheeler said. "I definitely would not fire a warning shot."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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