An event facility in Lakeland, Florida, is under fire as parents attending the girls basketball high school state finals were stunned to see gun owners using the facility too while openly carrying assault rifles and shotguns.
The Sun Sentinel reports the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state tournament was being held this weekend — just three weeks after the tragic shooting at a Parkland, Florida claimed 17 lives. As parents and the children arrived, they were confronted with armed men making their way to a gun show that was scheduled to run concurrently.
According to Nova High School basketball coach Jason Hively, he was flabbergasted when he saw someone carrying a “big rifle” strolling through the parking lot as the team bus carrying his team pulled up to the facility.
“It caught me off-guard,” Hively — whose school is located only 24 miles from where the Parkland shooting took place — said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Whatever your feeling is on the Second Amendment, I don’t think the two mesh here.”
“I think after Stoneman Douglas — to be honest, I was a little disappointed to see it,” he continued. “If you’re holding an athletic event for kids to promote sportsmanship, personally I don’t think it’s a good look for parents, kids and fans to walk into a venue that’s being shared with people carrying assault rifles. I don’t think [a gun show] should be held at the same time you’re holding a state tournament.”
According to FHSAA executive director George Tomyn, they were unable to move the tournament and were left with few options when learning of the gun show.
“It’s unfortunate, but our contractual agreement has nothing to do with that,” said Tomyn. “We attempt to stay as neutral as possible on politically charged events. We put on great high school events — that’s our job. It’s unfortunate when the other stuff gets mixed into it.”
Tomyn was unable to answer questions as to whether future tournaments would be held under similar circumstances.
“I haven’t spoken with any board members yet about it,” Tomyn said. “That topic is not on our agenda [as of now].”
In a separate prepared statement, the FHSAA said it worked with the RP Funding Center to reevaluate security measures to maintain safety during the event, including an “increased presence of law enforcement” on Saturday.
Florida Gun Shows, which put on the event, also scheduled an event in Fort Lauderdale on Mar. 17-18, but that show had previously been postponed after the Parkland shooting.