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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Outdoor show’s policy leads to vendors, speakers boycott
VIRGINIANS planning their annual trip to Harrisburg, Pa., for the huge Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show are in for a surprise.
The show is scheduled for Feb. 2–10 at the State Farm Show Arena. More than 1,200 exhibitors were expected. But, over the past week, hundreds of vendors, hunting celebrities and seminar speakers bailed out due to a startling policy change by the show’s Reed Exhibitions management that bans display or sale of military-styled firearms with large-capacity magazines.
Reportedly, the move was to forestall “negative attention.” The policy change is doubly odd, given that Reed Exhibitions, a United Kingdom-based company, is the same company that stages the massive SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades) Show for the National Shooting Sports Foundation every year.
A statement on the show’s website (easternsportshow.com) said the show is “a hunting-focused event,” adding that it welcomes “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 and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests.”
The NSSF issued a somewhat cryptic defense of Reed Exhibitions in a statement on its website. It read: “While assuring us that all legally available firearms will be welcome at future Eastern Sports and Outdoor Shows, it was explained that this unfortunate decision was made in response to the planned actions of a single retailer that would have drawn significant unwelcomed media coverage at a time when firearms ownership is being assailed in the media. It is important to note that this year’s show will continue to feature a wide variety of firearms.”
The NSSF encouraged industry exhibitors and attendees to participate as planned, but the show is hemorrhaging.
The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday it was pulling out, noting its disappointment that, “Reed Exhibitions has ignored the concerns expressed by attendees, the outdoor industry and the NRA in not reconsidering their position to ban the display of Modern Sporting Rifles.”
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation similarly announced it was withdrawing as an exhibitor and conductor of the elk-calling contest. The National Wild Turkey Association is yanking its booth space and rescheduling a sanctioned calling contest. Other big names reportedly withdrawing include Cabela’s, Thompson/Center Arms, Smith & Wesson, hunting celebrities Jim Shockey, Larry Weishuhn, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Michael Waddell and more.
SET ’EM UP; MOW ’EM DOWN
Another Sunday-hunting piece of legislation in the Virginia General Assembly was scheduled Wednesday night to face the seven-member panel of executioners known as the House of Delegates’ Natural Resources Subcommittee.
This bill, a straightforward proposal to allow people to hunt on private land with the permission of the landowner, was crafted by Del. James W. Morefield. The subcommittee’s action on the bill was unavailable at deadline, but every other bill related to Sunday hunting it has “considered” ends up in the General Assembly version of a body bag.
Betting odds strongly favor that this simple bill, as much a landowner rights issue as a hunting issue, will meet a similar demise.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has repeatedly stated he would sign Sunday hunting legislation for private land and over the past few years, nearly 20 members of the General Assembly have sponsored or co-sponsored various pieces of Sunday hunting legislation. One bill last year, similar to Morefield’s, easily passed the full Senate only to be trampled underfoot by Del. R. LeeWare’s House Agriculture subcommittee when Senate-approved legislation crossed over to the House of Delegates.
Hunting remains the final Sunday evil. And why on earth the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, with its narrow focus, would lock arms as apparent primary opponents to people hunting on their own land on Sundays is the hypocritical question of the outdoors world.
In the few states that have traditionally prohibited Sunday hunting, exceptions are increasingly being granted. Virginia is among the last holdouts.
Early last year, after the final shovels of dirt had been dumped in the Sunday-hunting legislation graveyard, I posed the question, “Was the deck intentionally stacked against Sunday hunting?”
Given the trend this year, the answer appears to be a clear “Yes”—at least in the committee and subcommittee where the made men of the anti-Sunday hunting mafia sit.
The General Assembly numbers 140 elected men and women. But while this may be a democracy, a handful of people actually make the call on what does or doesn’t get to a full vote.
It appears the only hope for Sunday-hunting advocates is to work for a change of faces in these committees. That will take grassroots work in the legislative districts.
People also need to contact their delegates directly to ask why they aren’t getting a chance to vote on this issue. Another potentially worthwhile approach is taking the case directly to county boards of supervisors, making cogent arguments for why change is appropriate.
A bill that had been working through the Virginia Senate was Tom Garrett’s Senate Bill 803, which would have allowed the hunting of nuisance species on Sundays. That was amended to apply only to coyotes, but the full Senate voted it down Wednesday. The Sunday-hunting ban defies logic and it seems like a no-brainer to allow taking nuisance species at any time, but this isn’t about brains—it’s about politics.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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