PHILADELPHIA — Hunting and fishing retailer Cabela’s Inc. and the Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will not participate in what has been billed as Pennsylvania’s largest outdoor sports show next month following the decision to ban the display and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Event organizer Reed Exhibitions imposed the ban at the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show following the deadly Connecticut elementary school shooting that has prompted the ongoing gun control debate in Washington.
The event’s website says officials “strongly support the 2nd Amendment” but decided negative attention on such weapons “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.“
Cabela’s said on its Facebook page on Saturday that after carefully considering their business practices “and the feelings of our customers, Cabela’s will, unfortunately, not have a presence at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.“
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation canceled its exhibit and its management of the show’s elk-calling contest.
“RMEF reached this decision after careful deliberations and taking into account the stance of our members, volunteers, industry partners and fellow hunters,” a statement from the organization read. “We urge Reed Exhibitions to reconsider its policies to avoid a divisive and political atmosphere so RMEF can take part in an event that generates needed revenue for important on-the-ground conservation and hunting heritage projects in the region.
RMEF spokesman Mark Holyoak said the organization objected to a ban of legal firearms, although it did not make any comment on the use of military-style weapons as hunting rifles.
“Our organization members and others use all sorts of different weapons,” Holyoak said. “If they’re legal that’s great, if they’re illegal, that’s a totally different thing.”
Event director Chris O’Hara of Reed Exhibitions did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The nine-day show is scheduled to open Feb. 2 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
Word of the event organizer’s action drew numerous calls for a boycott from gun enthusiasts on the show’s Facebook page and accusations that Reed wasn’t standing up for their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement calling upon Reed Exhibitions to reconsider, saying their future participation in the show would be determined by the response. The NRA also urged members to follow the organization’s lead by “voicing their displeasure.“
Several other companies earlier announced their intention to withdraw from the show. The (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era said Kinsey’s Outdoors of Mount Joy, Lancaster Archery Supply and Trop Gun Shop of Elizabethtown had said they do not intend to participate.
Cabela’s Inc. of Sidney, Neb., currently has 40 outdoor gear and sporting goods stores across the United States and Canada.