TAMPA, Fla. — Nobody’s campaigning for Joe Biden at the Florida Gun Show in Tampa. 

There are, however, a dozen booths pushing Trump, or pushing voting for Trump, or pushing Trump-related merchandise that runs the gamut from flags and T-shirts to laser-cut metal and burnt-wood signs (it’s called pyrography!).

What You Need To Know

  • Last weekend's Florida Gun Show in Tampa drew hundreds

  • The event was peaceful and heavily Republican

“Know your audience,” says my partner as we share an overpriced foot-long corn dog.

I first attended a gun show at the Florida State Fairgrounds in 2003. I admit it—I was looking for foaming-at-the-mouth gun-nut spectacle, a cliche, a caricature. Instead, I found friendliness, openness, and civility.

A lot has changed in our country since 2003. We’re living in what could arguably be called the most divisive times since the Civil War. Citizens are becoming violent over something as innocuous as wearing a mask. The nation is torn, and more vocal and aggressive about that division than ever.

For the uninitiated, the gun show might seem intimidating. They will see ordnance that they have never seen outside of a war movie. They’ll see flak vests, and wonder why anybody who isn’t a Blackwater employee might need a flak vest. They’ll see weird knives, and ammunition magazines that can contain far more bullets than anyone would need to kill any single thing, and semiautomatic weapons in colors that might make them attractive to children.

What they won’t see, though, is a foaming-at-the-mouth gun-nut spectacle.

That hasn’t changed.

“I love it,” says Brian Gordon, whose company Tactical Society sells gear like vests and bags. “I get to meet interesting people.”

Gordon has only been doing gun shows for a couple of years, but he’s thinking about branching out into selling weapons as well.

There’s a sense of safety here, of oneness. It’s a bit like a concert. We’re all here for the same reason; we like the same thing. And like a concert, the crowd is always more diverse than one might assume—people of all races and walks of life, perusing the historical firearms, tactical weaponry, and decommissioned landmines. It’s always great to discover, amid the tumult and the chaos, that there’s common ground.