As the Florida Gun Show sets up for this weekend at Pembroke Pines City Center, a movement to shut it down is quickly gaining steam.
One of the movement's leaders is the League of Women Voters of Broward County, led by Barbara Markley, who piloted a similar fight in Fort Lauderdale, which has banned gun shows. She and others have called for Pines Mayor Frank Ortis and the city commission to cancel the Pembroke Pines show, which is slated to happen this Saturday and Sunday.
A protest against the show is planned for Saturday outside the Charles F. Dodge City Center, but advocates aim to confront Pines officials at tonight's city commission meeting, which is set for 6:30.
League chapter director Lourdes Diaz said her group will be joined at the meeting by concerned citizens and city residents as well as members of the local Hispanic caucus, Moms Demand Action, and other local women's and Democratic clubs.
"I am so angry," Diaz said early Wednesday. "Why is the city doing business with gun shows?"
Diaz said allowing gun shows in Pembroke Pines has always struck her as a poor choice for the city. But the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where the gunman targeted Latinos, killing 22 people and injuring 26, has made Pines' contract to host Florida Gun Shows even more disturbing.
"The Pembroke Pines City Center was built to be family-friendly," she said, "not to sell assault weapons of war, like the AR-15, to our community."
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Diaz, who lives in Pembroke Pines, said her members reached out to city commissioners, but only one — Angelo Castillo — responded, saying the city risked a lawsuit if the show was canceled.
Mayor Ortis did not immediately respond to New Times' request for comment.
After Fort Lauderdale declined to renew its long-term contract last year, Florida Gun Shows Inc. this past January filed a federal First Amendment lawsuit. Gun shows had been held eight times per year in Holiday Park, drawing some 3,000 to the War Memorial during each weekend event. Florida Gun Shows attorneys say Fort Lauderdale is barring the company from its right to sell firearms on public property.
Markley, the chair of the League of Women Voters' Gun Safety Committee, began protesting in Fort Lauderdale following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in February 2018.