One of the largest hunting and outdoors shows in the U.S. is now over before it ever began.
The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, which was scheduled for Feb. 2-10 in Harrisburg, Pa., was canceled after at least 170 exhibitors, sponsors and major hunting celebrities boycotted the show. The boycott came after Reed Exhibitions, the British event organizer, released a statement last week banning ARs and high-capacity magazines from the show.
The cancellation of the show came on the same day that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to announce the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.”
Reed Exhibitions said in a statement released on Thursday that “in the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs [modern sporting rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests… It has become very clear to us after speaking with our customers that the event could not be held because the atmosphere of this year’s show would not be conducive to an event that is designed to provide family enjoyment. It is unfortunate that in the current emotionally charged atmosphere this celebratory event has become overshadowed by a decision that directly affected a small percentage.”
Reed Exhibitions was also the organizer for the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, which took place Jan. 15-18 in Las Vegas and welcomed a record 62,371 attendees. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which hired Reed Exhibitions to facilitate SHOT Show, issued a statement on Thursday calling the AR ban an “unacceptable decision” and said that NSSF has nothing to do with the Harrisburg show.
“In the days following Reed Exhibitions’ announcement that modern sporting rifles would be prohibited from the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the leadership of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has been in intense, frank discussions with Reed Exhibitions management in an effort to reverse this unacceptable decision,” the NSSF statement reads. “These discussions reached an impasse.”
“NSSF is in no way affiliated with, nor does it participate in or exhibit at this show in any way. Reed Exhibitions does, however, manage the NSSF-owned SHOT Show (though Reed manages the SHOT Show, all SHOT Show decisions, policies and actions are made at NSSF’s direction). Because of Reed’s recent actions, NSSF is considering all options regarding the management of future SHOT Shows.”
As for those in the hunting community, the ban of ARs at the Harrisburg show was seen as a direct assault on the Second Amendment and the very core beliefs of American hunters and gun owners. Hal Shaffer, who co-hosts Drop Zone TV on the Outdoor Channel with NASCAR crew chief Greg Zipadelli, said the ban on ARs wasn’t an innocent move.
“We were betrayed,” Shaffer said. “The message it sent to me, and I know a lot of others in the hunting community, is that they’re not gonna stand strong on our constitution and our Second Amendment rights. They’re gonna let this current administration alter their stance because they have no backbone. They’ve got no spine.”
Shaffer also released this statement earlier in the week:
“Under this current administration and its lack of respect for the constitution, I would expect all of the outdoor industry and especially its leaders to band together and stand up for what is rightfully ours. The Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show (the largest of its kind) somehow took a liberal stance and backed our current administration’s warped gun control initiative.”
“This is a huge knife in the back to the outdoorsmen who support this show every year. I am proud of all my fellow outdoor personalities and companies who have sent a shot over the bow (so to speak) and made crystal clear that they stand strong on the second amendment! For the anti-gun folks, the founding fathers put in a quote for y’all as well: ‘For those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor safety.’ —Ben Franklin.”
Other celebrity hunters like Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of the The Crush also pulled out of the show and questioned Reed Exhibitions’ decision. In a statement released earlier this week, the Lakoskys said, “We can’t support a show that doesn’t completely support the Second Amendment.”
Among the major exhibitors and sponsors that pulled out of the show were Cabela’s, Smith & Wesson, Mossberg, the NRA and the Outdoor Channel. In a statement released Wednesday on its Facebook page, Mossberg spelled out its reasons for boycotting the show.
“Our company’s position on the 2nd Amendment is unwavering and steadfast, therefore, we are unable to support any organization or event that prohibits the display or sale of legal firearms. We stand united with our loyal customers and supporters in this constitutional right and had only hoped for a different outcome.”
While multiple organizations like the NRA publicly asked Reed Exhibitions to reconsider its mandate, the global event organizer instead chose to cancel the show. By Wednesday the NRA had issued a statement saying that Reed Exhibitions had “steadfastly refused” to reconsider and therefore the NRA would not attend the week-long show, which by Thursday was cancelled.
The NRA said in its statement: “Due to Reed Exhibitions’ refusal to reconsider their decision to ban Modern Sporting Rifles from the February 2-10 Eastern Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA, the National Rifle Association has decided to withdraw from the show. We had called on Reed Exhibitions to reconsider their decision; unfortunately they have steadfastly refused to do so. As a result, the NRA will not be participating in the upcoming show in Harrisburg or in any other shows hosted by Reed Exhibitions that maintain this policy.”
Make no mistake, the hunting community made a statement loud and clear with its boycott of the show.
“As sportsmen we’ve absolutely made our stance clear. We’ve proven a point about who we are and what we’re gonna be. This is about the heart and soul of what we believe as Americans,” Shaffer said. “It’s time to make a stand. We can’t be silent anymore. If we don’t make that sacrifice today, there won’t be a hunting heritage to protect.”