Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg is canceled

Harrisburg — Reed Expositions, the owner and promoter of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show here – one of the oldest and largest events of its kind – canceled the 2013 event on Jan. 24.

The show, which was scheduled to take place Feb. 2-10, was the subject of a boycott by exhibitors reacting to a decision by Reed to ban the sale and display of modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines from the event this year.

By the time the show was canceled, an unconfirmed list of boycotting exhibitors had grown to about 350 and the controversy surrounding the gun-ban decision and its implications for 2nd Amendment rights was immense.

“Reed Exhibitions has decided to postpone, for now, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show given the controversy surrounding the company’s decision to limit the sale or display of assault rifles at the event,” according to a statement released by Reed on Jan. 24..

“Our original decision not to include certain products in the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show this year was made to preserve the event’s historical focus on the hunting and fishing traditions enjoyed by American families,” said Chet Burchett, Reed Exhibitions president for the Americas.

“In the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests. This was intended simply as a product decision, of the type event organizers need to make every day.

“It has become very clear to us after speaking with our customers that the event 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.

Reed Exhibitions, a British company, announced the action Jan. 15, as it was running the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas ­– the largest firearms trade show in the nation.

In a prepared statement, Reed said then that it feared “certain products” possibly could “attract negative attention,” given the “current climate” following the December massacre of 26 people at an elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Reed never specifically stated publicly which products were excluded from the show, but several retailers said they were told by show officials not to bring any AR guns or ammunition magazines capable of holding 30 or more rounds to sell or even display.

Reed’s decision was met with swift opposition and outrage. As of Jan. 23, at least four major exhibitors, including Cabela’s – one of the show’s four sponsors – had announced it was pulling out of this year’s event, along with the National Wild Turkey Federation and five celebrities who were supposed to be featured speakers.

Here’s what Reed had to say about its decision in an announcement placed on the Eastern Sports and Outdoor 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 …”

Reed spokesman Ed Several said noted the company likely will allow modern sporting rifles to return to the show next year.

“We’re not talking about banning them forever,” he said. “We’re talking about this year, when they could be a distraction. We will certainly revisit this next year.”

In November, Reed had announced the creation of a new area at the show dedicated to tactical guns and accessories.

Trop Gun Shop in Elizabethtown was supposed to be a featured exhibitor in that tactical area. It was the first to boycott the show following Reed’s announcement.

“We feel as if their demands for us not to display modern sporting rifles, high-capacity magazines or even a logo of a manufacturer of said products is irreconcilable with our support of the 2nd Amendment,” store owners posted on Trop’s Facebook page.

Across the Internet, reaction to Reed’s announcement was robust. Both the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation issued statements denouncing the company’s decision.

“The National Rifle Association strongly disagrees with Reed Exhibitions’ decision to ban modern sporting rifles from the Eastern Sports Show,” the NRA posted on its website. “We encourage Reed Exhibitions to reconsider its position.”

After initially stating it would attend the show, the NRA announced on Jan. 22 the organization was pulling out as an exhibitor.

“We had called on Reed Exhibitions to reconsider its decision; unfortunately they have steadfastly refused to do so. As a result, the NRA will not be participating in the upcoming show in Harrisburg or in any other shows hosted by Reed Exhibitions that maintain this policy.”

In addition to canceling its booth space, the National Wild Turkey Federation revealed that it will be rescheduling its sanctioned calling contest that was slated to take place at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show “once a suitable venue is determined.”

Also in the wake of the announcement, Facebook pages were created titled “Boycott the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show” and “Boycott the Expert Guests Attending the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.”

The show is famous for hosting high-profile hunting and fishing experts and television personalities. As of Jan. 22, five featured speakers had announced they would not attend the show due to the ban.
Editor Jeff Mulhollem contributed to this story.

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