The National Rifle Association, arguably at the peak of its power in the wake of its success defeating President Obama's gun control bid, is expanding into a new direction: operating the nation's biggest gun and sportsman show.
Long a defender of gun rights, the NRA tells Secrets that it is moving into the outdoors show business to guarantee that gun makers and gun users won't be pushed into a corner or eliminated entirely from the annual Harrisburg, Pa. show for hunters, anglers and campers.
"This is fantastic," NRA President David Keene told Secrets.
The annual Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show collapsed last February when 325 vendors pulled out in one day after the British organizer banned AR-15-style rifles like the one used in the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn. The protest forced the show promoters to cancel, costing Harrisburg about $81 million in revenue from the anticipated 1.2 million visitors.
Keene, who cut the ribbon to open the same show two years ago, said, "the collapse of the show sent an incredible signal out that people were not going to let the gun people be isolated in a corner, that the whole outdoor community was there."
The NRA has renamed the show, set for February 1-9, 2014, the "Great American Outdoor Show." Keene said that he plans to team with conservation groups to expand the show beyond the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center to other venues in Harrisburg. Cabelas is also expected to rejoin the show which they abandoned after the AR-15 ban.
While good at marketing and promotions, this is the biggest show the NRA has ever taken on. "We've had a couple little shows and stuff," said Keene. But, he added, "We thought this is the biggest outdoors show in the United States. it was almost destroyed because of these gun control people and why don't we go in and save it?"