JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thousands showed up at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds as usual for the Southern Classic Gun and Knife Show, a popular event held more than once a year in the city.
Promoters don't believe the shooting incident in Colorado caused attendance to increase this year. But many showed up, with the parking lot filling up well before noon. Patrons had to find parking along the streets.
The gun show promoters said gun shows have drawn big crowds to the River City since 2008. One big reason they say is crime increases in a tough economy and people want to arm themselves. Noelle Mathis recently moved from Illinois. She wanted to buy her first gun and get a concealed weapons permit.
"Just for safety. I am a single mom, and I just want to feel safe," Mathis said. "I know it's more flexible down in the south. I am looking for something I can carry with me to my car, and have at home to make sure my son and I are safe at all times."
Claire Frank got her concealed permit just two months ago, and shooting at the range has become a hobby. "I'm just going to take care of myself, whether anyone else can. It's legal in Florida and it makes me feel safe."
Frank said she is against gun restrictions even after the recent shooting incident in the Colorado theater.
"If you see all these shootings and what's happening, none of these people are sane that are doing this," Frank said. "They all need help."
Gun dealer Eddie Monk sold about 50 guns on this day and says gun restriction talk always comes up after a shooting incident like the one in Colorado. He doesn't believe the Colorado shooting incident had an effect on attendance. Obviously he supports more gun ownership.
"If every third person in that movie theater would have been armed, there's a good possibility that shooter would not have gotten off that many shots... but you would never hear that on the liberal TV networks," said Monk. "I don't think that banning any gun is going to stop a single crime, period. It just doesn't work that way. If it would, we could stop obesity by banning forks. It just don't work. We could stop arson by banning matches."
"Passing laws will only hurt good people and will cause another black market for the evil," added firearms instructor Charles Berrane. "Evil exists out there and people want to be able to protect themselves." He holds concealed weapons permit classes at the gun show, and they are well attended.
Monk said another reason these gun shows are well attended is because of the talk of banning some guns. "Some people are buying because they are leery of what they might not be able to get in the future."