Though the majority of gun owners are still older, the organizer of the state’s largest series of gun shows said millennials are buying firearms in increasing numbers.
Khaled Akkawi is the owner of Shoot Straight, a chain of stores in Florida.
“Yeah, actually we do see a lot more young people coming to purchase firearms,” he said. “The demographics are changing. The majority is still 40 and up, but a new generation is coming in.”
The Florida Gun Shows, the latest of which took place at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition over Memorial Day weekend, drew thousands of visitors who braved waves of pelting rain to attend. Media who covered the event were instructed not to speak to any vendors and conduct any interviews with attendees outside the entrance.
For $13 in cash – no credit cards accepted – potential buyers were able to examine an array of firearms ranging from a tiny 5.5-inch Sig Sauer p238 handgun weighing only 15.2 ounces – priced at $689 – to a 17-pound M249 light machine gun selling for $4,000.
The event also offered $40 concealed weapons classes as well as opportunities for people to bring in up to two of their own unloaded guns for appraisal, sale or trade.
The group holds exhibitions in more than eight cities across Florida, with near-monthly events held in Miami-Dade County. This was the fourth show in the area this year.
While many eventgoers were middle-aged men, there were also many families with children perusing the more than 600 tables of firearms, knives, scopes, laser sights barrels and ammo displayed by over 200 participating vendors.
One mother had her toddler in tow as she signed paperwork for a newly purchased handgun, while a pregnant woman inquired about a revolver for self-defense, and several children ran around brandishing toy AK-47’s.
The reasons for buying guns varied with each person—from collecting to hunting and self-defense. However, younger buyers consistently cited the recent spate of school shootings.
Jay Block, 22, who lives in Parkland, near Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was looking for a concealable 9mm handgun and willing to spend up to $500 to get one.
“Ever since that Douglas shooting they’re trying to change gun laws every single day,” he said. “This is the first gun show I’ve seen pop up since that happened so I’m just trying to grab me something quick before you can’t get anything anymore, you know?”
“I’m here to buy a gun, that way next time some crazy shit goes down I don’t gotta wait on law enforcement. I can handle things on my own terms,” he added.
Elvis Mata, 21, a Miami Dade College student was also there to buy his first gun. He already had a concealed carry permit, along with $600 for a firearm.
Mata said he is fearful that his 14-year-old brother’s school might fall victim to a shooting one day and plans to teach him how to use a gun when he turns 16.
“There’s a lot of shootings everywhere and I just want to be ready,” Mata said. “I don’t want to be shopping somewhere and some crazy dude just starts shooting at me. If it happens, it happens. I’m ready, though.”
Joey Laflare, 18, came to buy a concealable Glock 9mm for home defense.
“The only way to really protect yourself is with a gun. You can’t really do something to someone with a gun, without a gun.,” he said.
He added that he had attended classes with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“I used to see him, but I never talked to him,” Laflare said. “He just did his own thing. He was just quiet.”