January 28, 2013
Last week's Reed Exhibitions/Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show fiasco should have presented a teachable moment to those who believe "hunters" aren't going to stand up in support of "shooters".
When British-owned Reed Exhibitions announced that the nasty-old black rifle was being banned from a consumer show described as "a celebration of America's hunting and fishing values" it kicked off a spontaneous demonstration of "average America's" core values.
One of those core values is a complete lack of tolerance for those who seek to outlaw a class of firearm simply because of its looks- or because they decided it doesn't "belong" at a consumer event.
It was also made painfully obvious to the management of Reed Expositions that "nanny-statism" wasn't needed-or wanted- at the Eastern Show.
Instead of going quietly about the business of booking hunts and fishing expeditions while selling gear to the approximately 200,000 people who attend this show, more than 200 of the exhibitors decided to take a pass on the whole event.
It was far more than a symbolic gesture for many of those exhibitors.
For them, the Eastern Show is, essentially, their entire year's business. Not many of us could afford to blow off our largest moneymaking opportunity for the year.
But when it comes to another infringement on individual rights these days, many are more than willing to put their businesses at risk.
That represents a teachable moment.
And despite the fact most of the mainstream media isn't going to share this fact with you, the point wasn't lost on elected officials across the country.
Sure, there was a march by "thousands" in Washington on Saturday to push for passage of Senator Dianne Feinstein's resurrected -and broadened - assault weapons ban, but Saturday marches in Washington aren't designed as anything other than photo opportunities.
This spontaneous outpouring of anger at the management of the Eastern Show wasn't kicked off by sponsoring groups who raised $50,000+ for nifty banners, signage and refreshments for marchers. And it wasn't boosted by four weeks of campaigning in the attempt to turn out "a million marchers against assault rifles."
Instead, it was a spontaneous demonstration of American values. And like many core values, this one came at a price: the nation's largest consumer-outdoor show has been "postponed", and the businesses of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania face the loss of an estimated $44 million in revenues because of that postponement.
It's unfortunate, but the exhibitors who announced they were boycotting the event didn't kill the show.
Reed management's refusal to re-consider their prohibition-even after being warned by their long-time partners at the National Shooting Sports Foundation - did the damage.
Only Reed's managers know the motivation behind their decision, but everyone remotely associated with the show is painfully aware of the repercussions.
Harrisburg has taken a big financial hit. The region's outdoor enthusiasts have been deprived of a marquee event they've turned out to support for years. And many small vendors - including those who planned on being there next weekend- are looking at some very lean times ahead.
This week, the fight to prevent the reinstatement of a piece of needless eyewash legislation will continue in Washington. And as it does, we need to use the teachable moments of last week to remind politicians who say they're supporters of shooters and outdoors enthusiasts -yet announce their support of the "assault weapons ban" that all decisions- even politically correct ones- come with a cost.
If they don't learn from that lesson...... they can learn their lessons later.