A massive boycott backed by the NRA and outdoorsmen and women outraged that the nation's largest outdoors show banned the exhibition of assault weapons has caused the show's organizers to abruptly cancel the week-long event in Harrisburg, Pa.
The successful boycott, started by the website mynortheastoutdoors.com, was the biggest demonstration of support by the outdoors industry yet against gun control efforts being pushed in Washington and in several states.
"Reed Exhibitions has decided to postpone, for now, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show given the controversy surrounding its decision to limit the sale or display of modern sporting rifles (also called ARs) at the event. The show was scheduled to take place February 2-10 in Harrisburg, Pa.," the organizer said in a statement Thursday.
The show is the biggest in the nation and features several outdoors groups, hundreds of exhibitors and the most popular TV hunting show stars. It draws thousands from the Washington-Baltimore area. As the assault rifle ban became known, exhibitors, sponsors and the TV stars withdrew by the dozens.
The NRA is a huge sponsor of the show and pulled out Tuesday after Reed moved to ban assault rifles like Bushmasters and AR-15s at the show. A Bushmaster was used in the Newtown, Conn., shootings, according Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance, and Reed said it was bowing to concerns about the gun in banning it from the show.
In its statement today, organizer Reed Exhibitions said that the whole show, which includes fishing and camping exhibits, "could not be held because the atmosphere of this year's show would not be conducive to an event that is designed to provide family enjoyment. It is unfortunate that in the current emotionally charged atmosphere this celebratory event has become overshadowed by a decision that directly affected a small percentage of more than 1,000 exhibits showcasing products and services for those interested in hunting and fishing."
The boycott by the NRA and 170 other exhibitors, however, is what killed the show said one exhibitor. "We need to stand firm against those siding with the anti-gun crowd," said the exhibitor on background.
Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino said he was disappointed in the cancellation, and blamed Reed Exhibition's gun ban. "The decision represents yet another attempt to undermine protections guaranteed to all Americans under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and it restricts the ability for law-abiding citizens to purchase legal firearms that are increasingly being used for hunting in a number of states. I encourage Reed Exhibitions to swiftly reverse its decision and for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to take steps to ensure that all future events of this nature held at the Farm Show Complex are held in a manner that respects the Second Amendment rights of all Pennsylvanians."
The National Wild Turkey Federation, a group supported by turkey hunters, said they were boycotting to raise awareness of the threat against the Second Amendment. "We feel strongly about the importance of the Second Amendment in pursuit of our mission of preserving our hunting heritage," said Skip Motts, president of the NWTF Pennsylvania State Chapter.