TAMPA — While Congress haggles over the latest gun control legislation, thousands of gun owners descended on the Florida State Fairgrounds Saturday for a two-day gun show.
The Senate agreed Thursday to begin debating legislation calling for background checks during all for-profit transactions, including sales at gun shows and online. The records would be kept by licensed gun dealers who would also handle the paperwork.
The legislation sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., is a step back from the universal background checks that many gun control groups have been advocating.
While the proposed legislation mandates background checks for all purchases at gun shows, some of those who attended Saturday's event near Tampa said it isn't a major concern.
"As far as background checks, I don't have a problem with that," said Neill Faulman, 47, of Sarasota. "If you've got nothing to hide, it's not a problem. But I want our Second Amendment rights to be protected."
The gun control debate has caused ammunition prices to spike in the past few months, said Mark Miller, a gun owner from Sarasota. He compared it to the gas crisis in the 1970s when some people hoarded fuel in their garages.
"Can you imagine the glut of guns and ammo in people's homes now because of this?" Faulman said. "We're not hoarding by any means, but the fear element is there for some people."
This weekend's gun show includes dealers and collectors from across Florida who cater to a mix of gun collectors, hunters and enthusiasts, according to the show's website.
Visitors can bring up to two guns to the show for appraisal, sale, trade or accessories. Purchases are subject to a background check, and buyers can pick up their guns three days later.
"I think the background checks need to be 100 percent across the board, with everyone, no matter who you are or what you own," said Lane Wallace, 53, of St. Petersburg. "Some of these places, you come in and they don't check anything. I think that's ridiculous."
However, the National Rifle Association does not share the same view and announced its opposition to legislation expanding background checks.
"As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, wrote in a letter Wednesday evening.
While Credie Windmaker of Winter Haven sees the concern surrounding sales of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, he thinks the laws should be tailored toward specific guns. The country is already flooded with millions of weapons that aren't documented, Windmaker said, which could complicate the process. Such a system would create unnecessary checks and waste resources that could be applied elsewhere.
"There shouldn't be a reason to conduct a background search on someone purchasing a hunting rifle or a shotgun," Windmaker said.
Caitlin Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.