Gun group membership spikes after Florida shooting | Gun show attendance doubles

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Monday, July 4, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. (WLS) -- Orlando held its first gun show since a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in an attack at Pulse, a gay nightclub.

The turnout at the Florida Gun Show, held over the weekend, was much higher than the last gun show three months ago, organizers said.

Many of the attendees said they bought guns for the first time because of the horrific massacre.

"The incident at Pulse, it really is an eye opener for me, it's something I always wanted to do. I think the time is now," said Jordan Paulling.

The show typically draws about 6,000 people. Organizers believe there were twice as many attendees this weekend. Meanwhile, memberships have more than doubled in a national LGBT pro-gun rights organization since the shooting.

Pink Pistols Utah chapter President Matt Schlentz said membership has grown from 1,500 to 4,000 since Omar Mateen's June 12 rampage, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Schlentz owns semi-automatic rifles similar to the Sig Sauer MCX that Mateen used, and he said he gets mixed reactions from people who learn he's a gun rights advocate.

"Obviously, as a gay man, I have to have some liberal views socially. But on this one point, I have very conservative views. The reality is what it is - the world is a violent, terrible, scary place, and people do wish me harm based on who I love."

Pink Pistols organized in 2000 in response to a series of violent incidents like the murder in Wyoming of gay college student Matthew Shepard. Some early slogans were "Queers bash back" and "Pick on someone your own caliber."

Stonewall Shooting Sports of Utah is another pro-gun LGBT group.

"As awful as Orlando is, I feel like this is a huge eye-opener for a lot of people that the world is not a perfect place, especially for a group that's at risk for this kind of violence," said Scott Mogilefsky, the group's president and an Army veteran.

There was an increase in people inquiring with the group after Orlando, he said.

"Security should be armed at all gay nightclubs, and all employees should run through a defensive shooting course once a year," Mogilefsky said. "When you think about supremacist groups, a gay bar is an easy target. And the shooter knew that. It was like shooting fish in a barrel."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.