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Hunting Industry Boycotts Eastern Outdoor Show Over AR Ban; Forces Cancellation

by Eric Conn   |  January 25th, 2013 25

Reed Exhibitions' refusal to allow ARs—like the ones shown here at the 2013 SHOT Show earlier this month—at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., led many vendors to pull out of the show and forced Reed to cancel.

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.”

  • David

    I am a lifelong hunter, skeet shooter, handgun marksman and outdoorsman and I still agree with Reed's stance. And I can't believe more fellow hunter's don't agree. While I understand that many in the hunting community saw this as the first chip at their second amendment rights, it's not, it's using the Constitution responsibly. AR's have no place in the hunting world, anybody that has to use one to shoot any game is obviously a terrible shot. They were introduced to the hunting world by idiots that throught they were cool and lacked enough sense of "hunting tradition" to know that they weren't. I know dozens of sportsmen that scoff at the idea of AR's being 'hunting rifles' and also believe if you can't kill it with a few rounds, you basically suck as a hunter. So, with Reed opting to remove AR's and high capacity clips from their show, how does that effect hunters? How does that effect the core group of their target market, who use traditional firearms and standard clips? It doesn't effect those people and I am puzzled why those people care. Those guns and those clips have no use in a hunting context so why have them at a hunting show?
    Further, hunters are supposed to be the firearm world's ambassador, showing millions of non-firearm people that these devices that are viewed as dangerous can be part of a very safe and family oriented activity that builds a lot of social equity. If we continue to embrace these fringe firearms and useless high capacity magazines, that have nothing to do with our pastime, simply to protect the overall topic of guns, we are going to be seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution. AR's have no use in our hunting world, who cares if they aren't at the hunting show? Nobody should care, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.
    And lastly, if this is because hunters are afraid that the current administration will take AR's away, well maybe they should. We have too many acts of gun violence in this country, something needs to change. And this is coming from a lifelong republican shooter and outdoorsman. ESS show people: use your brain, one gun that we dont use anyway is not taking your whole world away, relax.

    • john

      David, David, David…you poor misguided soul… where do I start. To begin with you just assume this ongoing debate is about AR's – this is about ALL semi-autos..that means your benelli, your 10/22 ruger or your Remington woodsmaster semi-auto deer rifle. And when they get those rifles, trust me they will come after everything else including your handguns that you target shoot with. Furthermore I am so sick of hearing guys say "you don't need an AR to hunt with and if you do you suck" Come on! that is as ridiculous as saying your don't need a Benelli Semi auto to hunt ducks, you just need a single shot hammer gun. I use ARs all the time to hunt with from Prairie dogs to elk. When I am prairie dog/varmint hunting yes I use a higher capacity magazine. When I am big game hunting with an AR10 in .308 I use a five round magazine. The point is the platform is very flexible and can be used for a variety of things. I am a very avid hunter averaging more than 200 days a year in the field. I have hunted every continent for a variety of big game…so occassionally if I use an AR because it is handy I guess I am a lousy hunter

    • Ron

      What a dork!!!!!!

    • johnny

      Their is no such thing as" gun violence" Bats,and knives and fist are used more than guns to kill.Ever hear of "Bat violence"?The next ban will be 'sniper" rifles,your hunting rifle,if we let them have this part of our right.They want to boil you slowly,don't you feel the heat?

    • Mike

      I am at a loss for words after reading your post, you don't have a clue at what is being attempted.

    • Also David

      You are not a hunter. These are exceptional hunting weapons used for hogs, prairie dogs, coyote. You are obviously a poser, not a hunter.

  • Enrique Molina

    California gun owners support u..!! God bless

  • Danny Mardis

    I think what you guy's have done is awesome and I just hope the rest of the contry follows your lead

  • Jerry Swope

    Thank you for standing your ground and boycotting the Sports show .

  • Jay Davis

    I have been going to the show for many years. It's sad to see the organizer, Reed Exhibitions, decided to join the leftist democrats who are attacking the Second Amendment. The first rule of business is don't alienate your customers or your financial backers. Reed has done both. It is also sad to read the response of the Mayor of Harrisburg to the boycott and subsequent cancellation. In the future, I will not go to any shows organized by Reed Exhibitions. And as long as the current Mayor of Harrisburg is in office, I will not patronize any businesses in Harrisburg.

  • John Meyer

    I agree 100% with Mr. Shaffer. Now is the time to take a stand. Gun control is not the answer and never will be the answer. Im tired that, everytime there is a shooting, the anti's want gun control. I feel bad for the families, my heart goes out to them. There is always going to be good and bad in this world, but the good should not suffer, because of the bad.My rights as a law abiding American should not be taken away.

  • Sherrill Neese

    A public relations nightmare for Reed. They only have themselves to blame. Arrogance and ignorance… a bad combination.

  • David is an ID10T

    David what is it that you dont understand that having a hi capacity semi auto weapon? its basically for criminals and a tyranical oppressor.Your whole point on using these for hunting….whatever, who the hell uses an AR to hunt? If they do they do. I for one only bow hunt now due to " a rifle is to easy" I look at this as a stand for the 2nd amend, which once they come after any weapon say goodbye to your bolt action rifle a year or 10 years later. You said use your brain in your statement sure doesnt look like you did. Go move to another country then if you dont approve. My Uncle and Father didnt fight in WWII & Korea to have our or any guns taken away. Jackass.

  • Brian

    To david
    The restriction on any right, 1st or 2nd should never be watered down just because of technological advances. Is the 1st restricted due to the Internet or use of phones etc.. The 2nd should not as well. It boils down to 1projectile is fired with one pull of the trigger. With speed loaders I can shoot a revolver pretty darn fast. Also a turn of the century or before Winchester can hold up to 13 rounds of 38 caliber. Lastly David if they made the law you can only speak or write in 10 words at a time and that's it, would you say that's alright.
    Emotions have no place in legislation of any type especially when it infringes on a Bill of Rights issue.

  • Bob

    Ya it's sounds like David couldn't get his point across in 10 sentences or less. Hehe

  • Bill

    I am so happy to see sportsmen and women stick together. Our politicians again show there reluctance and ignorance to handle the real problems in our country. As soon as they realize that everything is not ok and make people live within the boundries of the law and properly punish those who do not.

  • Starky

    David what you fail to understand is that the battle for gun control will be lost an inch at a time. There will never be an all out ban. They will pick away at it from the edges till they are finally far enough in to do real damage. When it comes to your rights stand firm. If it comes down to it defend them with your life. There is no room in the battle to protect our rights for a 90 percenter.

  • Anonymous

    So being a skeet shooter makes you more civilized than a 3 gun competion shooter. What savages ar shooters and high capacity shotgunners we must be. If you (David) are so proper and the like, move across the pond and see how we'll you'll enjoy your freedoms in the shooting sports. I think David must be hanging out with general Collin Powell at cocktail parties if he a so called republican. A healthy debate like this is what is needed. This is about crimes commited with guns not gun violence, code word violence doesn't make it sound like its connected to anything illegal, see how the left operates when they come after your rights.

  • Richard DeFazio

    Though some may not use a AR style gun, I havefriends in WV that use them legally, if you start banning one type it will lead to another and another, pretty soon no semi-auto's including handguns then shotguns will be legal, where will it stop, if some have their way a total ban, I am also leary now of registration now as total registration makes confiscation all the easier. it's one small step at a time. BTW, I am a Democrat who happens to be a avid hunter and Pro 2nd Amendment. Everyone on both sides feel heartfelt for the 20 kids gunned down, it is one of the worse things that can happen, but making laws that do not help deter the criminal or mentally ill but only put restrictions on the law abiding citizen do not help anything.

  • John D

    Is SHOT looking for a new exhibitor to run next years show also?

  • Paul "Papa Gnatt"

    This reply is for David.

    I do not own or plan to purchase an Armalite Rifle ( AR ) or an AK style rifle.

    I hunt with handguns. I use a S&W Model 41 .22 pistol for squirrel. I use a T/C Contender with 6 different barrels in lengths of 10" to 14" in calibers .22 Long Rifle, 30 Herrett, 357 Magnum Hot Shot, 357 Maximum, 35 Remington and 44 Magnum Hot Shot. I use revolvers in 357 Magnum, 44 Special, 44 Magnum and 45 Colt. I use a semi-auto in 10mm.

    I also hunt with a .36 caliber muzzle loader, a .50 caliber muzzle loader and a double barrel 12 gauge muzzle loader.

    All of these firearms are based on military designs.

    I don't think an idiot such as you should be allowed to hunt with, target shoot with, use in any way, or even be allowed to legally own any type of firearm, since at one time or another all firearm designs have been used by military's.

    Barack Obama would love to pass a law banning your possession of all military descendant firearms. If you contacted the White House I'm sure, at your request, he would sign an Executive Order banning you from owning any military descendant firearms.

  • James

    David, It's great that you have your shooting sport passions, and I would never support legislating them away from you. At my club, I enjoy practical rifle shooting with an AR, steel target shooting with an AR, and although I haven't tried it yet, I understand the Zombie shoots are an absolute riot. Months of preparation go into building sets, and designing the Zombie course, and the weapon of choice for the hundreds of members that shoot the course at our club alone is an AR. Why in the world would you support legislating my shooting sports away simply because they're not yours. Shame on you!

  • Mike

    As a retired law enforcement captain, the only thing I can say for you is that you may be beyond help.
    You sound as if you've overdosed on the KoolAid.
    I was shot in the head in the line-of-duty by a criminal using, yes!, a semutomatic pistol. I worked homicide for almost nine-years and never once saw an AR style rifle, or any other firearm for that matter, take the life of a human being. It was always another human being taking the life. The gun was the instrument just like knives, clubs, vehicles, blunt objects and many other means.
    I have sworn to protect all of our rights and that includes the right not to be outgunned by our government.


    In the State where I grew up, magazine capacity for hunting firearms was and is today limited to a maximum of 6 cartridges. The wise elders who long ago crafted this rule did so because (1) this forces every shooter to shoot each shot carefully rather than spraying lead all across the landscape from a 30 or 100 round magazine [good hunters don’t need to carry more than 6 cartridges in a firearm at any one time] and (2) this limitation on cartridges carried is more fair to the game animal, since he is given a sporting chance to escape during a magazine change, if the hunter shoots badly and needs to insert more ammo in order to do the job. Remember, my fellow hunters, that hunting is a SPORT done for recreation; it is not about survival anymore and has not been for many years. Therefore, I see no legitimate need for civilians to own and use magazines with a capacity exceeding 6 rounds. Period. The Second Amendment guarantees me the right to keep and bear arms that fulfill the purposes of the Yeoman’s tools, to care for my family through hunting, self-defense and the target shooting necessary to acquire and maintain my proficiency with these tools. The Second Amendment does not give me the right to own and use high-capacity magazines that can be inserted into the weapons-of-mass-murder. Nor does it give me the right to own and use machineguns, artillery, tanks, rocket launchers or high-explosives. So, leave the high-capacity magazines to the police and military who really need them for law enforcement and foreign wars. On the other hand, if you imagine that the U.S. Government, which you re-elect every 2, 4 or 6 years, is somehow [in your wildest delusions] a threat to you, then I understand why you may feel the need to own and use high-capacity magazines for your AR and AK “trench-brooms.” Your primary [if unspoken] reason for owning high-capacity magazines is that you are preparing for war either against your fellow countrymen or the American government itself. But remember this, the U.S. government is one of the most responsive governments in the world to its people and you elected it. I have been to countries where people cannot elect their leaders and where any criticism of the government can land them in prison or get them killed. Modern Americans are so spoiled to live in this great and free country of ours. Like spoiled children, they constantly complain about the feared loss of rights and whine that their leaders are against freedom. Such whiny BS; you have no idea how bad life would be if your leaders were actually out to take away your rights. It is time that you whiny wussies man-up and start respecting our traditions of representative democracy [though a sometimes slow and frustrating process] and learn to live in peace and have sober and honest conversations with fellow citizens who hold differing views. The true American way is for respectful and honest dialogue that eventually leads to workable compromises, where all people can go forward in peaceful progress. Your true challenge is to educate your fellow countrymen so that they will better appreciate and consider your viewpoint during this dialogue. You should not be making extreme-sounding declarations of doom and stockpiling arms and ammo because you are angry for not getting your own way entirely and you fear that you will someday go to war against them. Remember that was done during the 1860s with disasterous results for those who opposed the U.S. government. Remember from the Declaration of Independence that God has endowed all of us with the inalienable rights of (1) life, (2) liberty and (3) the pursuit of happiness. Life has the highest priority in this series and if it is threatened by someone exercising their liberty or pursuing their happiness, then the liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be “dialed back” so that the life of another or all others is not harmed. Thus, our Second Amendment rights are NOT absolute; they can and should be regulated so that we can enjoy our hunting sport without becoming a danger to one another. – – Sincerely, Bubba G in the Heart of Dixie

    • Joe

      ^ TL;DR version: Guns should be limited and magazine capacity restricted so deer have a sporting chance, and the same sporting chance should be given to criminals who want to murder you and your family.

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