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Pennsylvania Outdoor Sports Show Caught In Gun Debate Cross Hairs

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Pennsylvania Outdoor Sports Show Caught In Gun Debate Cross Hairs


Pennsylvania Outdoor Sports Show Caught In Gun Debate Cross Hairs

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. The debate over gun rights could cost Pennsylvania businesses millions of dollars. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has long hosted one of the nation's largest hunting and fishing shows, but a boycott by vendors has led to the event's postponement. Craig Layne, of member station WITF, reports that some 200 shops and groups pulled out after organizers banned certain types of guns.

CRAIG LAYNE, BYLINE: This time last year, Rick Harro was setting up his booth and getting ready to show off his Gobbler Getter turkey calls.

RICK HARRO: First of all, we'll start off with a purr.


HARRO: And then a cluck.


LAYNE: He would have done the same demonstration hundreds of times, as one of the more than 1,000 exhibitors at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show. With the nine-day hunting and fishing extravaganza postponed, Harro is likely missing out on up to $4,000 in revenue from selling the calls. They cost about 50 bucks apiece.

HARRO: This was my biggest show. It actually - we were sort of counting on this to get me to my next couple shows.

LAYNE: In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, the organizer banned the display of assault weapons at the event. Britain-based Reed Exhibitions would not comment for this story. The decision led to a boycott that started with a south central Pennsylvania gun shop.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thanks for calling Trop Gun Shop. This is Elise. How can I help you?

LAYNE: Trop Gun Shop was the first vendor to drop out of the show that draws some 250,000 visitors each year. Sales manager James Diehl says the shop's owner didn't like being told what he could sell, especially because the rifles in question are legal. Diehl says they had no idea the decision would spawn a movement.

JAMES DIEHL: After we pulled out of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, and we got hundreds upon hundreds of likes on our Facebook page, and the industry backed us up by pulling out of the show - subsequently, the business has been brisk.

LAYNE: Diehl says while he feels bad for smaller, non-gun-related vendors who may be losing money, he thinks the decision to boycott the show has increased business at the shop.


LAYNE: The semiautomatic AR-15 rifle has been Diehl's hottest seller. It's so in demand, there's only one in the shop - and it's spoken for. Diehl says it's popular not only because it was banned from the show, but because many fear it will be outlawed if Congress approves new gun control measures.


LAYNE: Drivers on the interstate outside Harrisburg can still see a billboard advertising the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show. And while the advertising is already paid for, the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau estimates some $44 million in direct spending will be lost with the event's postponement.

SHARON ALTLAND: I cried. I, literally, cried. I was devastated.

LAYNE: Sharon Altland is the visitors bureau's director of sales. She says everyone from shuttle bus drivers to Girl Scouts who fundraise during the show, could be affected. And she says some businesses may even have to close.

ALTLAND: Quite honestly, I don't know how they're going to survive. There's a lot of vendors that participate in this show, that this is their number one show. They only do one show a year.

LAYNE: The boycott and show postponement likely won't change any minds about gun control. But its impact will be felt in real dollars across a region where hunting and fishing are a way of life.

For NPR News, I'm Craig Layne in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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