TAMPA- There are already hundreds of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies openly carrying guns on their hip at the Florida State Fair. Those are the guns you see, but there are hundreds more in the fair every day, you don’t.
According to statistics from the sheriff’s office the number of guns have gone from 690 in 2015 to 1,750 in 2017. That averages out to about 146 concealed carry permit holders each day across the 12 day event. More than 500 have been brought in in 2018 so far.
“I take mine everywhere I can take it to be honest with you,” Cesar Portales said. Portales carries his concealed weapon to protect his wife and 6-year-old daughter.
“You never know what will happen at any given time, you never know whose life you can save if somebody else is in trouble, not just yourself or your family, especially with the way society is, you never know,” Portales said.
A lot of people we spoke to didn’t realize that people with valid concealed carry permits could bring their guns into the fair.
“That’s a lot of guns in here,” Zac Gardenhouse said. “I don’t think that many people need it, especially if the officers are carrying. It doesn’t take a lot to get that permit to carry either, so that many people kind of scares me…you don’t know who is standing next to you.”
Fairgoer Gwen Watson said the number of people with concealed weapons was concerning to her too.
“This is the fair. You are here to eat, drink, ride the rides, enjoy time with family and friends and have a great time, not worry if the person next to you has a concealed weapon,” Watson said.
The recent school shooting in South Florida was also top of mind for everyone when it comes to gun safety.
“When I think about the gun laws today it needs to be much more strict,” Watson said. "When we got back to the unfortunate tragedy that just happened in south Florida there are so many things that could have been done different to prevent that. There needs to be more of a background check.”
Tyler Anderson brought his weapon in to the fair. He plans to become a law enforcement officer. But, for now, he said he wants to be prepared if something happens and a deputy isn’t around.
"If something happens and we are not allowed to have that right to carry, who can stop them? A police officer could be far, far away and you have some armed citizen, they can step up and do the right thing,” Anderson said.
Fair officials would not comment on camera about the recent increase in concealed weapons at the event.
They cited state law that, “any person in compliance with the terms of a valid concealed licensee granted under Florida law may carry a concealed weapons or concealed firearm onto the Florida State Fairgrounds. The Florida State Fair Authority follows the law as outlined in Florida Statute 790.06 (1).