Editor’s Call: Standing Together

Protests Over Eastern Sport and Outdoor Show Unite Outdoorsmen

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Jim Spencer, T&PC executive editor

Everybody remembers the December massacre of 20 children and six adults at Newtown, Conn. The anti-gun fallout from that tragedy has been loud and long, but there’s been some positive stuff as well. If you can call anything that resulted from that horrendous crime “positive.”

For instance, when the promoters of Pennsylvania’s huge Eastern Sport and Outdoor Show announced a ban on modern sporting rifles because of the Newtown shooting, scores of long-time exhibitors retaliated by withdrawing from the show. So many, in fact, that Reed Exhibitions had to cancel the event at almost the last minute. Scheduled for Feb. 2 to 10 this year, the Eastern Sport Show has always had hundreds of exhibitors and has drawn huge crowds, generally topping 200,000 for the nine-day show.

But Reed Exhibition’s decision to ban modern rifles created a backlash so overwhelming the show had to be canceled. The reasoning was eloquently stated by Joe Keffer, a board member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and owner of The Sportsman Shop in New Holland, Pa.

“As a long-time exhibitor, I was hopeful an agreement could be reached,” Keffer said. “While I respect Reed’s desire to be sensitive to events that have caused great pain to Connecticut and our nation and to avoid negative publicity for the show, it’s also critical that we don’t infringe on the rights of safe, responsible, law-abiding citizens to purchase, own and use legal firearms. We must not allow these good people to be lumped into the same category as those who misuse firearms and commit unspeakable crimes.”

Other companies weren’t quite so nice. “Weatherby, Inc. will not attend the Eastern Show,” was the entire statement from that grand old firearms manufacturer. Other organizations and companies who pulled out of the show included the National Rifle Association, National Wild Turkey Federation,  National Shooting Sports Foundation, Benelli USA, Sportsman’s Liquidation, Mossberg, Just Kill’n Time TV show, Hevi-Shot, Ten-Point Crossbow Technologies, Crimson Trace, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Virginia Blade Knives and many more.

Notice that diversity. Most of the companies don’t have any connection with modern sporting rifles. Yet they withdrew in protest, because … well, listen to what the president of Ten-Point Crossbows had to say:

“We are taking this action to stand in solidarity with many other shooting and outdoor sporting goods manufacturers in support of the guarantees expressed in the Second Amendment. It is unfortunate, but I believe we must take this position as a matter of principle.”

Ten-Point also announced its decision to buy lifetime NRA memberships for all its employees who wanted them. This from a crossbow company, mind you.

It’s an example all of us in the outdoor industry would do well to follow. We’re bad about squabbling with each other. Dog deer hunters fight with still hunters. Gun deer hunters fight with bowhunters. Trappers fight with dog hunters. This not only wastes energy, it weakens us. We have a bigger enemy, and the anti’s do not fight among themselves. Benjamin Franklin said it best:

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for that noose just yet.

Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.

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