At Miami-Dade Gun Show, Steady Sales And Clear Consciences After Colorado Massacre
The father picked the gun off the table and held it up for his son to see. "This is a shotgun," he said, pointing it into the small crowd walking past the table. "You remember this one, right?" Then he pretended to cock the gun and pull the trigger. "Blam! Just like that!" He bent down and put the gun into the boy's hands. At roughly three feet tall and maybe seven years of age, the child struggled to hold the seven-pound gun level. But eventually, he got it pointed into the crowd, smiling.
It was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition, just about a week after James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 58 more in a Colorado theater with three legally purchased guns.
The massacre has sparked a new wave of debate over gun rights (at least on the Internet; neither Obama nor Romney have wanted to come within a Winchester of that hot potato) in a country that seems perpetually at odds over what to do about weapons and the people who purchase them.
Gun dealers nationwide have reported a spike in sales in the wake of the massacre; Florida also made news last month as the first state to grant more than a million concealed carry licenses.
Given that context, I decided to take Miami's temperature on gun rights at the fair. The verdict: No one was particularly eager to talk about Colorado -- and to the dealers' credit, no one was explicitly using the crime to sell guns -- but the killing spree certainly didn't seem to hurt sales, either.
Inside the E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion at the Fairgrounds, a man in a red shirt with a beard and a thinning head of brown hair gingerly unzipped a bag containing his newly purchased AR-15 assault rifle, the same kind of gun Holmes allegedly used in the shooting spree. The red-shirted man had purchased this gun for $1,500 and was looking for magazines.
I asked him if what had happened in Colorado had influenced his purchase. "Colorado made want to buy one more gun," he said.
A dealer who introduced himself as Whiskey said that sales had not changed in the week since James Holmes' spree. "People are people," he said by way of explanation. When I first approached his table, with assault rifles racked in neat lines and pistols lined up for purchase, he asked if I were interested in buying a gun. I told him I had never even been to a gun show before. He smiled. "Then there's two things I want to know." I figured he was going to ask me if I were a felon or mentally fit. Instead, he leaned in close: "What caliber you're comfortable shooting with, and how much money you have." And then he laughed.