Everyone in the Northeast has heard of the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show, often called the "Harrisburg show" for its location in the Pennsylvania capital.
A weeklong orgy of hunting, fishing and general outdoor exhibits, it draws as many as 100,000 visitors and makes or breaks the year for many outfitters.
It is run by Reed Expositions, a British firm that also manages the SHOT Show. Reed stepped on land mine last week by announcing that black rifles would not be allowed at the Harrisburg event.
"The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show is a unique celebration of the authentic hunting and fishing traditions that are cherished by millions of Americans and their families. We are proud to celebrate these pastimes by featuring 1,200 exhibitors offering a diverse range of products from outfitters to fishing boats and RVs, from archery to art and from clothes to cabins.
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.
ESS is proud to participate in the preservation and promotion of the rich hunting and fishing tradition passed from generation to generation by American families."
That was an extremely bad idea, as more than 60 vendors, led by Cabela's, which had a huge presence at the show, have dropped out. Cabela's commented as follows:
"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," the outdoors retailer posted on its Facebook page. "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."
There has been periodic naysaying about Reed Exhibitions' stewardship of the SHOT Show over the years, and this incident will just pour gas on the fire. It will be hard for the National Shooting Sports Foundation to justify keeping Reed as the manager for the SHOT Show in light of this decision, unless there is a sudden reversal.
One of our movement's great strengths is that we stick together. In Britain, for example, gun owners were represented by several organizations that were picked off one by one. The pistol shooters didn't support the black gun shooters, and were in turn not supported by the shotgunners. That made it easy for the government to isolate each group in turn.
Here, an assault on one is an attack on all, a fact whose importance Reed Exhibitions is about to discover.