The organizer of the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show announced Thursday that it will cancel the event, following boycotts in reaction to its decision to ban exhibitors from displaying AR-15-type rifles.
The annual event, which was scheduled for February 2-10 in Harrisburg, Penn., is the largest of its kind in the United States, attracting 1,200 vendors and more than 200,000 attendees.
But Reed Exhibitions saw a backlash from exhibitors and sponsors after saying it would ban the class of legal firearms out of sensitivity to survivors of the deadly Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Reed Elsevier Inc., the parent company of Reed Exhibitions, is based in the United Kingdom. Reed Exhibitions is based in Norwalk, Conn., 25 miles from Newtown. (RELATED: America’s largest outdoor sports show to ban AR-15-style weapons)
The National Rifle Association had already announced on Jan. 22 that it would encourage its members to boycott the show.
“We had called on Reed Exhibitions to reconsider their decision,” the NRA said in a statement. “[U]nfortunately 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.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation expressed disappointment with the policy of disallowing legal AR-style rifles at the show, but called for enthusiasts to attend the show and express their opinions to the organizers.
“We urge industry exhibitors and attendees to participate in the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show as planned,” the group wrote, “and encourage attendees to visit the Reed Exhibitions booth at the show to share their concerns and to then enjoy the show.”
A long list of firearms and equipment manufacturers ultimately followed the NRA’s lead, however, and announced their intention to boycott the event. Those companies included Smith & Wesson and Ruger.
Reed Exhibitions also manages the annual SHOT show in Las Vegas for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is now revisiting its relationship with the company.
The sportsman’s group issued a statement Thursday morning about the canceled Harrisburg event, saying it “is in no way affiliated with” Reed, “nor does it participate in or exhibit at this show in any way.”
“Because of Reed’s recent actions,” the group added, “NSSF is considering all options regarding the management of future SHOT Shows.”
Meanwhile, Reed says the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show has been “postponed,” not canceled, and that it may reschedule the event.
“ESS has long been proud to participate in the preservation and promotion of hunting and fishing traditions,” Reed said, “and we hope that as the national debate clarifies, we will have an opportunity to consider rescheduling the event when the time is right to focus on the themes it celebrates.”