NRA: No guns for sale at Harrisburg outdoor show

It'll be called the Great American Outdoor Show.

It's backed by the National Rifle Association and it's coming to Harrisburg's Farm Show Complex on February 1, 2014.

Show goers can touch guns. Show goers can talk guns. Show goers can see guns.

But they just won't be able to buy guns.

An NRA spokesman said in a written statement today that it's NRA policy not to allow gun sales at its conventions and it won't allow them at the Harrisburg show.

Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste, who enthusiastically announced the deal with the NRA last week, said he was told from the beginning that gun sales would be banned.

Haste agrees with the policy.

“There's skeptics out there who thought this was gonna become a gun show. It's not. It's an outdoors show. We get it. They [NRA] get it. Next year everybody else in this region will get it,” he said. 

Joe Staudt gets it. He's been to NRA conventions in the past where gun sales were prohibited. But as the owner of Staudt's Gun Shop outside Harrisburg, he doesn't like it. Without the ability to sell firearms, he's now unsure whether he'll participate in the show.

“It kinda changes the dynamics of the show,” Staudt said. “We were expecting to have a show where we could bring our guns and our merchandise there and actually sell it.”

abc27 Outdoor Contributor Kermit Henning said he's fine with the policy. 

“I don't have a problem with it because I wouldn't buy a gun there anyway,” said Henning, who says an outdoor show is about much more than guns. “But I know there's gonna be a big stir. I think there has been already.”

There's a stir, in part, because the NRA blasted Reed Exhibitions for banning assault weapons at this year's show following the Sandy Hook school shooting, but is now banning gun sales at its own show.

In its written statement, the NRA says it, and other show vendors, pulled out of the 2013 Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show because Reed determined which weapons were “acceptable.” The banning of assault weapons ultimately lead to the show's cancellation after a vendor and attendee boycott.

The NRA said it “promotes all lawful firearms.”

But Henning does see inconsistencies in the NRA's position and wonders how vendors will react.

“Especially some of the vendors who made a big stir last year about Reed not showing AR-15's. Are they gonna come back to the NRA and say 'well, what's the difference between you and Reed? We're not coming.' “

Haste doubts that and is sure the NRA will put on a great show and calls the dust-up much ado about nothing.

“You can't argue with the NRA with their stance on the Second Amendment. They are 'the' defender of the Second Amendment,” he said. 

But Staudt fears nobody's defending his small gun shop from getting swallowed up by the big new manufacturers who will come to the big new show, with its big new promoter.

“It's gonna be great for the area, don't get me wrong, I appreciate that,” Staudt said. “I think a lot of us smaller shops in the area that attended the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show are gonna be crowded out of this one in my opinion.”

Staudt said there is still value in meeting potential customers and he'll decide whether to attend the 2014 show after he knows the price for a booth.

In a repeated e-mail exchange with NRA spokesman Jeremy Greene he would only say it's NRA policy not to allow gun sales. abc27 asked twice why it is the NRA policy to ban gun sales. It was never answered.

Henning has a theory.

“I think what they're saying is, 'We don't want to sell a gun because if we do and it's used in a crime then we're liable and it'll give the show a bad name especially the first year.' So I think they're covering their butt.”

In prior years, gun sales were permitted at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.

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