Eastern Sports Show steadily losing Exhibitors due to AR-rifle ban

A slew of firearm and firearm-related retailers, celebrities and manufacturers are boycotting the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after Reed Exhibitions, the company organizing the event, decided to prohibit products like modern sporting rifles at the show.

The official statement posted on the Eastern Sports Show’s website explains, “Clearly, we strongly support the Second Amendment. However, this year we have made the decision not to include certain products that in the current climate may attract negative attention that would distract from the strong focus on hunting and fishing at this family-oriented event and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests.” 

The statement was released in the wake of President Barack Obama proposing a new gun violence prevention plan on Jan. 15, which was put together in response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and seven adults dead. The plan included introducing a new Assault Weapons Ban and adding restrictions to magazine capacity, and in turn demonized AR- and AK-style rifles.

The Eastern Sports Show had around 1,200 exhibitors signed up to attend, but, according to Lancaster Online, since Reed Exhibitions altered this year’s show more than 140 groups have opted out of the convention. These include names like Cabelas, Smith & Wesson, Ambush Arms, Leupold, Federal Ammunition, the Outdoor Channel, Trijicon, just to name a few. 

However, notable gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation appeared to be on the fence about the whole ordeal. 

The NRA announced Jan. 17 (the original statement has been removed) that even though it disagreed with Reed Exhibitions’ decision to prohibit modern sporting rifles, and has asked the company to reconsider its decision, that it would still attend the show. Last night, however, the NRA released a statement saying the organization has officially withdrawn from the show. 

The NSSF, which caters more to retailers’ and manufacturers’ needs, said in a statement that they are also disappointed in Reed Exhibitions decision. The group added that that it has discussed the issue with Reed Exhibitions and in the future all legally available firearms will be welcome at the Eastern Sports Show. 

Without naming names, the NSSF explained, “[Reed Exhibitions’] unfortunate decision was made in response to the planned actions of a single retailer that would have drawn significant unwelcomed media coverage at a time when firearms ownership is being assailed in the media.”

Despite future plans, and in the face of harsh criticism by exhibitors, attendants and gun rights supporters, Reed Exhibitions doesn’t appear to be making any changes to this year’s event. 

Ironically Reed Exhibitions, an international company based in the United Kingdom, is the same company that organizes SHOT Show, which wrapped up last week (check out the full coverage here). At SHOT you can find just about every firearm and firearm related products — ARs and high capacity magazines included — you can think of.

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