Organizer postpones big Pennsylvania gun show

USA TODAY, January 24, 2013

By Yamiche Alcindor

A decision Thursday to postpone a large Pennsylvania gun show has sparked debate about whether such events are coming under fire in the wake of last month’s Newtown, Conn., shooting massacre.

Reed Exhibitions announced it was postponing the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., which had been scheduled for Feb. 2 to Feb. 10. The change came after Reed banned assault rifles at the show, prompting several exhibitors to boycott.

“In the current climate, we felt that the presence of modern sporting rifles would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests,” the company said in a statement.

Reed Exhibitions plans to reschedule “as the national debate clarifies.”

The Pennsylvania postponement comes as Glendale, Calif., lawmakers consider passing an ordinance banning guns and gun shows on city property.

Those efforts and others, made in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings that killed 26 people, may signify changing attitudes toward gun shows and gun possession, according to Tom Lorenz, a Glendale city spokesman.

“Some City Council members and the police chief see it as a symbolic message that gun violence is not tolerated in our community,” Lorenz said. Legislators recently asked the city attorney to draft the new gun law.

The attorney now has four to six weeks to write an ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor to have or sell a gun on city property.

Gun advocates argue that gun shows and gun rights will remain stronger than ever because of push-back by citizens eager to protect the second amendment.

Other cities are talking about taking similar steps while some gun shows have postponed their events, Lorenz said.

The region where the Pennsylvania show was supposed to take place will lose about $80 million in revenue, said Rick Dunlap, a spokesman for Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.

“This economic loss is collateral damage from a national debate,” said Dunlap adding that local businesses rely on the show for first quarter earnings.

Gun rights advocates argue that the president, congressional leaders, and gun control supporters are unfairly using the Newtown shooting to pressure organizations and the public into restricting guns.

“An attack on one firearm is an attack on all,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, a non-profit legal defense organization based in Bellevue, Wash. “They are trying to pit one gun owner against another gun owner.”

Gene Hoffman, chairman of the Calguns Foundation, another gun advocacy group, said banning one of the most popular selling rifles in the world doesn’t make sense.

He and Gottlieb said they doubt future organizers will make attempts similar to Pennsylvania to curtail gun shows.

“This is a strong warning to anyone throwing a gun show in America,” Hoffman said. “You don’t get to police what is legal and otherwise protected by the Constitution.”