The outdoor industry is thicker than thieves and we proved it by shutting down the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show. When Reed Exhibitions made the mistake of banning modern sporting rifles, otherwise known as ARs, from the show, which is the largest consumer sports show in the country, they shot themselves in the proverbial foot. I suppose the British based company forgot what happened the last time their countrymen wanted to tread on our freedoms.
"Our original decision not to include certain products in the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show this year was made in order to preserve the event's historical focus on the hunting and fishing traditions enjoyed by American families," said Chet Burchett, Reed Exhibitions President for the Americas. "In the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests. This was intended simply as a product decision, of the type event organizers need to make every day."
This statement was made after it was too late. Reed, the same promotions company that handles the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show for National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) put a ban on what they ignorantly called "assault weapons." The fallout started right after the SHOT Show ended. As the industry began banding together and calling on Reed to change their decision, the mega-promotions firm wouldn't budge. So, the shooting sports industry as a whole came down on them.
I'm proud of the entire industry for coming together and standing up for what we all believe in. And if you are a gun owner, or you're just a fan of the United States Constitution, you should be too. Yet, the cancelation doesn't come without a cost. The communities around Harrisburg, PA depend on this show. The local convention and visitors bureau estimates the region will lose $80 million in revenue expected from the 10-day event. Many middle-class Americans, from waitresses to motel owners have lost a significant opportunity to earn. Many outfitters, manufacturers, retailers and more count on this annual show as one of their big, if not biggest, sales and marketing events of the year. A lot of people are taking it on the chin. But the message is ringing loud and clear.
"Those archery and bowhunting companies and related individuals participating in the boycott could have easily reasoned that they don't have a Second-Amendment dog in this hunt and distanced themselves from the entire controversy. To their credit, many opted not to take that route, instead standing united with others in the outdoor, hunting and shooting community. The Archery Wire salutes those in the bow-and-arrow business for having the intestinal fortitude to step forward and stand on freedom's side in what is likely to be a difficult, unpleasant and prolonged endeavor," said J.R. Abser, editor of the Archery Wire.
Many noted outdoor celebrities were leading the charge to put the hammer down on Reed. Ralph & Vicki Cianciarulo, Chuck Adams, Gene & Barry Wensel, Bob Foulkrod, Fred Eichler, Lee & Tiffany Lakosky and Michael Waddell are just a few of the many names folks would recognize who stood and said if ARs aren't coming, then neither are we.
"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 of more than 1,000 exhibits showcasing products and services for those interested in hunting and fishing," said Burchett.
I hope it's clear. I hope it's vividly clear when you look through the doors of an empty exhibition hall. And I hope it's clear to any other would be executives looking to pick a fight with those of us who aren't afraid to stand up for what we believe in. And hopefully Reed is on it's way out of our industry altogether, because NSSF is considering all options regarding the management of future SHOT Shows.
See you down the trail ...