A nationally famous outdoors show in Harrisburg, Pa., saved by the NRA two years ago when anti-gun organizers shut it down over the display of AR-15 rifles, is in turmoil again after the gun group refused to pay the mayor's demand for a huge ransom in exchange for police staffing.
The Great American Outdoors Show will still open, but without the help of local police because the NRA balked at Mayor Eric Papenfuse's unexpected and exorbitant demand of $250,000 grant over five years and skyhigh police pay.
What's more, he told local media that he believes the National Rifle Association has fought city efforts to curb gun violence.
The NRA said that the show, which attracts 200,000 to the city and has a $70 million impact, will still go on Feb. 6-14 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. And the NRA Foundation will still make its planned donation to several central Pennsylvania organizations including the National Civil War Museum.
The show was cancelled in 2013 after the previous organizer banned semi-automatic weapons like AR-15s from displays following the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Most exhibitors pulled out in protest, forcing the cancellation.
The NRA then moved to take over and brought in many new exhibitors in 2014, including gun makers. It signed a five-year deal with the city and the mayor and police chief believed that would include donations to the city like the $50,000 police cruiser the NRA handed over last year and fees to the Harrisburg Police Department [HPD].
But when the demands came in from Harrisburg this year, the NRA tried to negotiate then balked, sending much of its donation to the museum that Papenfuse wants to close.
Said the NRA: "Demands were made by the mayor for the 2016 show that included a 60 percent increase in fees to HPD to work the show and a requirement of a $50,000 grant for five years to the city. This offer was presented as all or nothing. If we did not accept, the mayor would pull HPD support. We offered a 33 percent increase over the next 3 years and a grant of $25,000 in 2015 and consideration in the following years, as it is illegal and against NRA Foundation bylaws to award multi-year grants. The mayor refused our offer.
"We are disappointed our more than generous offer was declined, but we are mostly disappointed that the officers we have worked with the last two years will be the ones most hurt. The NRA is the only group that has given back to the city in such a manner and still has standing offer to provide free training to city law enforcement and to bring our other community outreach programs such as NRA School Shield and Eddie Eagle for free."
PennLive.com reported that local police aren't happy with the decision. They have worked inside the show for 30 years and many officers need the extra pay. The NRA agreed to an increase over next three years from $30 an hour to $40 an hour, but the city wanted $50. About 40 police worked in past shows.
And worse for Harrisburg: PennLive.com said that the city will pay cops extra overtime to compensate for the lost NRA wages.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com.