Most Americans who are in any way interested in the outdoors have, by now, probably heard of SHOT Show, which is the largest, most impressive, and most exhausting outdoor products exhibition in the world. The Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show is hosted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation every January in Lost Wages, Nevada. It is so big, so vast, so incredibly, overwhelmingly, stupendously enormous that Lance Armstrong could not visit every booth at the show during the four days it lasts, even if he rode his bicycle at top speed, and used twice as much performance-enhancing drugs as he normally does.
Unless you live in the northeastern United States, you might not have heard of another show that is almost as big as SHOT. The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show is held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania every year right after SHOT. Except this year it wasn’t. It was cancelled because Reed Exhibitions, the British company that puts on the ESOS for its sponsors, decided not to allow any of the exhibitors to display any modern sporting rifles, or even pictures of them, in their booths. Bummer.
‘Modern sporting rifles’ is the correct term for what the space cadets in the mainstream media erroneously call ‘assault rifles.’ They use that term to try to make people believe Americans should not own these guns, and that the only thing they’re good for is to kill people. Some of the mousse heads may even believe that. I don’t know. They seem pretty gullible.
Actually, I think a lot of people think the ‘AR’ in ‘AR-15’ stands for ‘Assault Rifle.’ It does not.
A fellow named Eugene Stoner designed the prototype for the M-16 rifle during the early 1960s, and Colt built most of the guns for the military back then. But the first company that offered the semiautomatic version of the rifle to the public, called the AR-15, was Armalite. The ‘AR’ stands for ‘Armalite Rifle.’
Anyway, what with all the vitriol being splashed around lately over the new ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ being proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Dark Side), the Reed people must have thought it would be a good idea to just not have any MSRs at the ESOS. This was a Big Mistake, in the sense that Earth colliding with the Sun would be Kind of Inconvenient.
First, Cabela’s said, “Hey, if we can’t display some of the most popular, useful, and versatile hunting rifles sold in America today at the ESOS, we just won’t go.” Well, they might not have said it in exactly those words, but that was the gist of it. As in ‘Can’t we all gist get along?’
And then the NRA jumped in and tried to talk some sense into the Reed folks, with no luck. Reed’s idea was that MSRs are just too military-looking for civilians to own. So the ESOS, which draws a crowd of 200,000 and injects about $44 million into the local economy, was doomed to be pretty much fun-free, if your idea of happiness is freedom instead of oppression.
Cabela’s and the NRA were not the only holdouts. Once word got out about the ban, exhibitors started pulling out like Germans from the Nazi party in 1945. Even without knowing whether their money would be refunded (and we’re talking about a lot of money), and even though the show accounts for a huge percentage of their annual sales, businesses that had planned to attend the ESOS abandoned ship like rats from the Titanic. It was pandolerium.
Reed’s American head man, Chet Burchett, tried to plug the holes, but he ran out of fingers quick. He only made the situation worse when he released a statement that said, “Our original decision not to include certain products in the ESOS this year was made in order to preserve the event’s historical focus on the hunting and fishing traditions enjoyed by American families . . . 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.”
It’s hard to imagine someone involved in America’s outdoors industry today could be so disconnected from their customers, but there you have it. I guess there are some, who should certainly know better, who think the lies being told by our president and other liberal politicians are true. That the majority of Americans favor a ban on MSRs, and that such rifles are not suitable for hunting. As if hunting were the issue, anyway.
The business owners who risked big bucks by boycotting the ESOS did it out of principle, to make a statement that freedom is more important to them than money, that the current administration does not speak for most of us, and that they would not tolerate denial of their constitutional rights. They told Reed, “If you won’t stand up for what’s right, you will stand alone.”
Reed decided to sit. They ‘postponed’ the show indefinitely, which is like cancelling it, only more weasel-like.
Too bad it had to come to this, but that’s life. I only hope congress is paying atttention . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who officially opposes any attempt to deny the right of citizens to own American Rifles. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org