Gun Control Debate Ripples Through Firearm Industry

Ammunition is displayed at the National Shooting Sports Foundation's 34th annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas Photograph by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The gun control debate continues to roil the firearm industry.

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek cover story, we reported on the complicated, sometimes-fraught relationship between the gun business and the National Rifle Association. Now the trade group that represents firearm manufacturers has split with its longtime event organizer, Reed Exhibitions, because of complaints from within the industry that Reed strayed from the Second Amendment hard line.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry trade association, announced on May 9 that it was ending Reed’s lucrative assignment to stage the gun business’s annual convention, known as the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show, or SHOT. Each January, the event attracts more than 50,000 employees of gun retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to a huge, lavish gathering in Las Vegas.

Reed Exhibitions, which has a portfolio of some 500 events in 39 countries, is part of publicly traded Reed Elsevier, a FTSE-100 company based in the U.K. After the Dec. 14, 2012, elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the British-based company barred the display of certain semiautomatic military-style rifles from a separate trade show it ran and then—in the face of protests from pro-gun advocates—canceled that show altogether.

“Reed Exhibitions provided excellent service to NSSF and the customers of the SHOT Show for more than three decades, however, the company’s decision to restrict the sale of certain types of firearms this year at its consumer hunting and fishing show—an event unrelated to NSSF and the SHOT Show—was in conflict with NSSF’s mission,” the gun trade association said in a written statement.

Pro-gun spokespeople quickly applauded the NSSF’s move to punish Reed for Second Amendment infidelity. “This was a good by NSSF,” wrote Lee Williams, a firearm columnist with the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla. In the photo that runs with his blog online, Williams poses with a modern sporting rifle/assault weapon. These rifles have become enormously popular among American gun owners—especially after some of the weapons were banned from 1994 to 2004 under a Clinton-era statute that has since expired.

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