Following the Wednesday shooting death of two Roanoke journalists, some Virginia residents are trying to put the brakes on a major gun exhibition scheduled to take place this weekend, but organizers say the show will go on as planned.
The Roanoke Gun Show features some 500 vendor tables filled with handguns and rifles, and is one of a number of similar events taking place in the state this month. But critics say the sprawling display aimed at firearm enthusiasts should be canceled, or at least postponed, in the wake of the on-air killing of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, a reporter and cameraman for WDBJ News, who were shot by a disgruntled former TV reporter in the same Virginia town just two days ago.
“Many people here in Roanoke, as well as myself, think is in extremely bad taste,” Sidney Vaught, a local singer, told International Business Times. Vaught started a petition Thursday calling for the event’s cancellation, which has since been signed by almost 450 people.
The exhibition is being produced by Showmasters Gun Shows in Blacksburg, Virginia, which organizes such events throughout Virginia and in other parts of the Southeast and Midwest. Reached by phone Friday, a representative for the company who declined to give her name said organizers were aware of the backlash but that they were already busy setting up for the weekend showcase.
A spokeswoman for Showmasters confirmed by email Friday that the show will go on as scheduled.
Vaught said he was trying to coordinate with local representatives and the general manager of Roanoke’s Berglund Center, where the gun show is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday. He said he is still determined to put a halt to the event.
Wednesday’s shootings once again sparked nationwide calls for stricter gun laws. Those calls were echoed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who said in an interview with WTOP in Washington, D.C., that there are “too many guns in the hands of people that shouldn’t have guns,” as Politico reported.
The shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II, aka Bryce Williams, used a 9 mm pistol he reportedly obtained from a federally licensed Virginia gun dealer. A representative for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Roanoke Times that a background check was performed and no laws appeared to have been broken during the purchase.