As a South Florida native, I spent countless summers as a child with my father strolling up and down the aisles at the Fort Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium when the gun show was in town. I recall the years before the Clinton assault weapons ban, the years during the ban, and after it finally ended. I noted how the demographics of the vendors, buyers, and even the merchandise itself changed over time.
The tables went from selling surplus M1 carbines, Browning Citori over/unders, and Smith & Wesson revolvers to AR-15s, GLOCKs, and PMAGs. The kids like me who grew up going to the shows with their fathers are now the guys running those tables. The Fort Lauderdale show was, for many South Florida gun owners, a timeless place where memories and deals could be made.
Alas, the gun show in Fort Lauderdale is now coming to an end after 30 years. The City Commission has decided to cancel the show’s contract in the wake of the Parkland School Shooting. The city of Fort Lauderdale, long a leftist Democrat stronghold, has joined the social justice warriors and are tearing down another cherished institution of Florida’s gun culture all in the name of feelz.
“We’ve been informed and we’ve been assured, not only by the elected officials here, but also the city’s administration and the administration at the War Memorial Auditorium, that it has nothing to do with firearms or the gun show,” said Jorge Fernandez, the manager of Florida Gun Shows.
Fernandez said the city has told them it wants to use the space in other ways.
“So I understand that, not only the gun show is affected, but the orchid show, the art show, coin show, whatever other shows are scheduled are also affected after the sunset of their contracts,” he said.
What Mr. Fernandez might not know know is that back in 2016, the city tried to ban the sale of ARs by modifying the lease agreement and stipulating that ARs, AKs, and standard capacity magazines couldn’t be sold on the convention center grounds.
The State’s preemption law prevent that from happening. The city’s attack on the show has been ongoing and finally came to fruition when Mayor Dean Trantalis, who as a city commissioner last year found no support for getting rid of the gun show outright, now has colleagues in agreement with him on the issue in Florida’s post-Parkland climate.
Event organizers have stated to WSVN News that they will look for other venues to continue to host the show. Hopefully they will find something soon because just south of the county line, in Miami-Dade County, the Miami Gun Show there is also under assault because Florida International University owns the grounds that the Dade County Expo Center is on. Since 2013, the University and county have been in discussions to allow the buildings to be demolished and the campus expanded with new dorms.
In the end, it doesn’t look good for the future of the South Florida gun culture. Another cherished place of my youth is being wiped out.