Indian River County Commissioners expressed support for and no interest in prohibiting gun shows put on by Patriot Productions for the last nine years at the county fairgrounds at the Tuesday, March 13 meeting.
A private citizen, Robert Galbraith, initiated the discussion by asking to be put on the agenda. “There are 50 places in the county where you can buy a weapon. A government venue should not be one of them,” he said. “The government should not profit from the sale of weapons.”
Galbraith was in the minority. Several people said it would be discrimination for the county to allow home shows and other vendors to lease the fairgrounds but to prohibit gun shows.
Mike Strickland, owner and operator of Patriot Productions, said the county will earn about $37,000 in lease fees this year from the gun shows he produces at the fairgrounds, and a hard-to-calculate amount of bed- and food-tax revenue from out of towners attending the shows. As required, law enforcement officers are hired and are at the shows, he said.
“We support legal, responsible gun ownership in Indian River County,” Strickland said.
Several women said the gun shows allowed them to learn more about a larger variety of guns than at a Walmart and to talk with gun safety and training vendors in a safe setting.
Many people said stopping the gun shows would be a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Parkland shootings, the Second Amendment gave them a right to bear arms, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and government should be limited.
All the county commissioners said they had no interest in cancelling gun shows at the fairgrounds.
Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan had a related agenda item proposing more public meetings be held to discuss whether the county should pass local laws to extend gun waiting periods and background checks. He noted the new state law does not close the loophole allowing a private person to sell guns to others at a gun show without a background check.
All but Commissioner Bob Solari were open to holding more public meetings. Those meetings will wait, while County Attorney Dylan Reingold researches the reach of the new state law. Reingold was also tasked with researching the effect of the NRA suit against the state’s new gun law. The lawsuit’s only complaint is against raising the gun-purchase age from 18 to 21, Reingold said.