Vendors Flee from Harrisburg Show Following Rifle, Magazine Prohibition

UPDATE 2: ESOS ‘Postponed’

As per the statement posted on the ESOS website, Reed Exhibitions has indefinitely ‘postponed’ the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation, owners of SHOT Show (also managed by Reed), have also released a statement calling the Reed/ESOS decision ‘unacceptable’ and stating that they are “considering all options regarding the management of future SHOT Shows.”  Find the full statements and discussion in the GunLink Forums thread regarding this topic.

The “World’s Foremost Outfitter” is pulling out of the largest consumer hunting, fishing and outdoor show in North America due to a change in policies regarding certain types of firearms at the show.  Cabela’s move started what is now turning into a landslide as more than 60 vendors have dropped out of the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg, PA.

ESS organizers, UK-based Reed Exhibitions (who also manage the NSSF SHOT Show), made a decision not to allow the display or sale of so-called “assault weapons” or “high capacity” magazines, sharing the following statement on the show website:

“As a hunting-focused event, we welcome exhibitors who wish to showcase products and firearms that serve the traditional needs of the sport. Clearly, we strongly support the 2nd 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.”

Cabela’s announced their planned absence from the 9-day show with the following on their Facebook page:

“Due to recent changes made by Reed Exhibitions regarding the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, Cabela’s will no longer sponsor this year’s event. After careful consideration regarding Cabela’s business practices, and the feelings of our customers, Cabela’s will, unfortunately, not have a presence at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.”

Clearly, Reed Exhibitions is running the show and it is their call on what to let through the door or what to keep out.  At a show that can draw upwards of 100,000 visitors (read: customers), Reed probably expected to call the shots and have the vendors roll over and play their games.  Voting with one’s wallet can make for a powerful voice, especially when it’s a big, thick wallet like the one that Cabela’s is holding.

As romantic as the idea of an army of industry leaders standing up and leading the charge to defend the human rights protected by the Second Amendment, there is almost certainly more to the story.  Given the current tremendous popularity of “black rifles” and the high prices they command (due both to that popularity as well as tensions over perceived coming legislation), it isn’t out of the question that this was every bit as much of a business decision as it was a Second Amendment defense decision.  Vendors can’t keep pace with the demand for these firearms or the ammunition and magazines that feed them.  Take away that entire market segment and “what’s the point” of even showing up?

Whether the ensuing mass exodus of vendors from the show is purely business driven or they truly are standing up for individual rights, it is great to see them not blindly marching to Reed’s drum.  After some of the recent murders, as often happens after such tragic events, there were waves of emotionally-driven knee-jerk reactions – from calling for the death of the leaders of gun rights organizations to renewed push for gun control to trade show managers trying to pretend that an entire class of firearms doesn’t exist.  The right to keep and bear arms is the same today as it was the day before some lunatic went off his meds and murdered innocent people.  Kowtowing to anti-rights groups because it is politically expedient in the short-term is not the way to handle the situation.  All it does is alienate a large swath of the people who keep you in business and sends a message that reinforces the wrong-headed beliefs of the anti-rights crowd.

We genuinely appreciate the position taken by Cabela’s and the other vendors who are taking a stand.  By the same token, we won’t soon forget the position that The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show and Reed Exhibitions have taken.

Update 1:

There has been much outcry from the community since this story first started making its rounds.  The count of vendors who have pulled out is now around or above 170, not counting numerous celebrities and individuals who have denounced the Reed/ESOS policy.  The NRA initially denounced the policy while stating that they would still attend the show in order to fulfill commitments they had made but later revised their position to indicate that they were removing themselves from the show altogether, as well as future Reed shows with this policy.

3 Responses to Vendors Flee from Harrisburg Show Following Rifle, Magazine Prohibition

  • Paul White says:

    Boycott the show!!!! LET’s stick together!!!!! I live in PA will not be attending…..

  • wade says:

    The only way Reed is truely effected is if all of us, don’t go pay our 12 or 15 $ because all the vendors already paid. They pay 1/2 mil to a mil to rent the farm show building. So if enough of us don’t show they can loose money. Make a difference and talk your friends out of going and make a day trip instead and go visit some of these small shops that lost money when pulling out.

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