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Florida Gun Show packs the Civic Center

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 7, 2020

A view from inside the Florida Gun Show at the Lee Civic Center on Sunday. Thousands came over the weekend to buy and sell guns, ammo and all the accessories.


The number of events that have occurred at the Lee Civic Center since March can be counted on one hand. Aside from a funeral for a local firefighter, almost nothing has occurred inside the cavernous facility.

Except one.

In June, Florida Gun Shows was one of the first trade shows in the state to reopen after having to shut down for several months due to the pandemic, with one of its first shows at the Lee Civic Center.

It was so successful that one vendor said if anybody wanted to speak with him just to chat, he probably wouldn’t have had the moment. Record crowds, from people sick and tired of being cooped up in the house, and record sales was the result.

This past weekend, Florida Gun Shows returned, and produced a weekend that nearly replicated the one in June. The fact it was cool and rainy much of the weekend turned out to be a positive as it gave people something to do so, again, they wouldn’t be cooped up in the house.

There were, of course, guns of all makes and models, from hand guns and semi-automatic rifles to everything in between, ammo to load them with, cases, holsters and bags to carry them in, sights to help them aim, and the list goes on.

If guns weren’t your thing, there were knives, tasers, clothing, and even gun-related toys for the kids.

Brenda Kruse, of Tampa, was selling small die-cast metal AR-15 models for children to assemble and disassemble.

She said with the times being so uncertain, many people and families are looking to better protect themselves.

“With the way things are in America right now, everyone is more understanding of why it’s important to have a gun for the family. It’s an interesting time,” Kruse said. “Some people are for them, some are against them.”

Again, thousands came on Saturday and Sunday. And the crowd, especially if you have never been to a gun show, might have surprised you.

There were families, young and old, with much diversity, small kids learning about these weapons from their parents, and lots of women.

Scott Rolff, owner of 22mods4all Inc. a company that builds its own guns from a shop in Longwood, said this is what a true gun show is like.

“Look at all the people here. At least 30 percent of them are women and they bring their kids. It isn’t just old white guys. That’s the perception the media gives,” Rolff said, adding that the politics typically get left at the door. “People aren’t gong to go crazy because they’ll lose everything.”

Rolff said when the show goes to Miami or Tampa, the shows get even more diverse, with as many as 30 percent of the attendees being persons of color.

Many were young. Peter Vanwageningen, 19, of Cape Coral was with his girlfriend and two of his buddies, doing some shopping.

“I was here to get parts for my gun and maybe a new gun. Whatever I can find. My family has always had guns and my grandfather passed me down four guns when I was 16,” Vanwageningen said. “I found a couple things I liked.”

It was $11 to enter, but free if you renewed an NRA membership. It also offered concealed weapons permit courses, prepaid legal defense services to prevent gunowners from harm or losing their Second Amendment rights, and even voter registration.

The next gun show at the civic center is scheduled for Dec. 12 and 13.